Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

A TRIP TO NEW ENGLAND,

BY A. C. W.

A trip to New England! What a treat after weary months of toil! The gown is exchanged for the knapsack, the pen for the pilgrim's staff, and you journey to the waters, mountains and sea-coast of New England. Toward this land of legend and history many a heart turns, anxious to set foot on its ancient soil; the desire arises in school-day readings, and later years only increase its intensity.

The time has come and you set your face eastward. A lightning train soon whirls you out of Pennsylvania, over the sands of Jersey and into the land of Gotham. Taking a morning boat at the great Metropolis, you spend the whole day on the Hudson, enjoying a feast which makes you grateful for a life-time. Every turn of the zig-zag river reveals some charming change of scene-a bold projecting headland, beautiful island, or long stretch of sloping hills, even the noted Catskill range—until at length you reach Albany, an old Dutch city of seventy thousand, quaint and clever, of business air, clean and tidy.

Leaving Albany you follow the Hudson northward, through busy Troy, and hard by the noisy factory villages on the Mohawk, spend a day at fashionable Saratoga to see the sights and drink Spa water, reach Glenn's Falls, and bid a half sad adieu to the genial Hudson. Over lovely Lake George, to the romantic ruins of old Fort Ticonderoga, across the neck of Lake Champlain, and you find yourself in New England, among the Green Mountains of Vermont, yea in quiet cleanly, far-off Orwell. Cross cold New Hampshire, south-eastward, pass through noisy Lowell, and you land in ancient Salem—where the story properly begins.

*

“I spy'd a wither'd hag with age grown double,
Picking dry sticks and mumbling to herself;
Her eyes with scalding rheum were gall’d and red,

Cold palsy shook her head, her hands seemed wither'd.” On a certain Saturday evening, having long looked anxiously forward to this ancient city of witchdom, and in the heat of my desire taken cars thither, I ran into Salem without knowing it, like the Puritan forefathers into their folly.

Next to Plymouth, Salem is the oldest town in New England. Its history might partly be written from its houses. Their gambral roofs, unmistakably point out their English origin; not only the old ones, of which there are very many, but also the more modern ones. The town has a peculiarly dingy, antiquated appearance, corresponding to your old impressions received

from its dingy history. Saturday evening was a good time to visit “Gallows Hill," the place

[ocr errors]

where the witches are said to have been hanged in 1691. It is a barren, rocky common of about 20,000 square feet, ceded to the city for a place of public resort. On the summit, and near the old witch-tree, is a rough and ready look-out, consisting of a high frame work with floor and seats on top. From this you have a very delightful view of Salem Harbor; and with the aid of a spy-glass ships can be seen entering Boston port. All around lie suburban villages, and just before you lies dingy, witchey* Salem. On the landward side you see only a rocky pasture ground, skirted in the distance by a sparse woodland of stunted pines and junipers.

How different the sight from Gallows Hill in 1691! Now, instead of a few small houses far down on the shore, the city extends quite over the hill itself. What different interests and excitements now draw the crowd thither! Instead of going to see the purple, distorted features of some poor, unfortunate woman dangling in mid-air, they now go to hear sweet music, to meet friends, to enjoy a look out on the ocean, to meditate or to mourn. Then it was a place where a dreadful sin was punished, and children were taught to fear it; now its associations are tender and pleasant, except in so far as modified by the past. On Gallows Hill, to one who has taken an interest in its history, and studied its stories of blood and justice, there come up peculiar sensations. You sit near the spot where those miserable beings ended their days, or stand in the little hollow made and left by the roots of the tree on which they were hanged it is no longer standing); you recall the troubled spirit of the time, swaying to and fro, between mercy and justice; you recollect how Cotton and Increase Mather, ministers between God and the people, were the great exponents and expounders of this radical opposition to the power and kingdom of Satan; how these holy men preached, persuaded and wrote about the mysterious evil; you recollect as you look out over the dark ocean before you toward the far-off coast of another England, how the name and fame of witchcraft, arising there (164446), spread alarmingly, and like a wandering spirit of evil came hither, filling the people with terror and wildness, running out into the greatest absurdities and extravagances imaginable, and finally dying a natural death, exhausted by its very violence. Your thoughts run back to the time when this uncontrolled fanaticism reigned, sparing neither position, age nor sex, regarding neither pity, prudence, nor piety; but uncompromisingly sweeping every thing before it. It heeded not even the divine call to consider the spirit it was of. In their zeal to carry out the Apostle's injunction to watch, stand fast in the faith, quit themselves like men and be strong, they quite overlooked the immediately succeeding injunction, "Let all things be done in charity.”

It is almost impossible to appreciate the state and feeling of society at that time. Man was strangely made a judge of his brother. A bench of spiritual dictators could acquit or condemn an accused with as much certainty, it would seem from their conduct, as the great Searcher of hearts Himself. The first victims of the Devil seem to have been two little girls

* Though not a believer in all that is said about those mysterious agents of 1691, there seemed to me still to remain somewhat of the olden spirit; for, besides other little unaccountable mishaps, my hotel room was for a whole day turned topsy-turvy, (or else was not toileted, which is unlikely); a set of folding doors kept a peculiar creaking toward evening and part of the night, and there was a rumbling noise overhead. I looked around suspiciously, but saw nothing.

ness.

of Rev. Harris; Rev. George Burroughs was hanged; Gov. Phipps's wife, Mrs. Justice Bradstreet, the wife of Rev. Hale, and many others of the very first families were accused. At length, after having spent itself, a re-action took place, and the public mind gained a healthier tone.

To come back, however, to the present, this stern, rigid, unyielding, uncompromising spirit of the old fathers has not yet wholly died away. It still finds place in New England, though with a different application, and crops out very often, both theoretically and practically. Indeed it lies on the surface, so that he who runs may read. I read a few short chapters.

I was glad to spend a Sabbath in Salem, desiring to hear what they now preach about. Attending the First Congregationalist Unitarian Church, I was led to a quite conspicuous seat where I could readily see both church and congregation. I was interested in that congregation, knowing it to have been the first organized in America. It was founded by Rev. Higginson, in 1629. (The Plymouth Church was organized before coming here.)

The sermon was based on the last clause of 1 Cor. 16: 13,“Quit you like men-be strong." The theme Strength and Firmness in Holding Truth, was carefully discussed. Strength and firmness are a necessity of our nature as men; without it we are incomplete; mildness and sternness must go together. They are demanded by our Christian calling. The greatest victories are not those of wild heroism, but in the quiet pursuits of life. The holiest bravery, the greatest virtue is that of the heart. Paul and Christ were cited as examples of the greatest strength and firm

These qualities are demanded by our condition in the world, as surrounded by sin and temptation. The Church has always been purest in times of persecution, and he thanked God that there was now a breaking in upon the old routine of quiet and peace.

It would show who are strong and firm. Sacrifices might have to be made, but the faithful could do it. The subject was practically applied to our present National condition. There must be no flinching from duty, no compromise with “the unclean thing."

Without any stretch of the imagination, he reminded me of what an old stanch Puritan minister of 1691 may have been-most severely uncompromising, most sternly rigid. When he spoke of the duty of firmness, there seemed to be kindled in his eye and heart the olden flame that burst forth with such fearful severity when occasion seemed to require.

It is easy to bid adieu to Salem, shake off the little witchery that may have gathered on your skirts, find the way to beautiful Lynn, and, after an hour's view of the wide old ocean, take cars ten miles into Boston; but to know what to tell, here, is easier than to know what not to tell. Perhaps it will be best to buy a map, go out into the suburbs, and gather up the fragments, as it were by the way of preparation for the metropolis itself. A half dime will carry you out to Charlestown, and a few minutes, walk will bring you to Bunker Hill monument. The name is enough, but the place is more. Tread reverently

“The ground is holy where they fought

And holy where they fell.” As the hill commands Boston and a large district around it, the Americans were anxious that the British should not fortify it. It is said that on the evening of June 11th, 1775, our forces under Col. Prescott assembled at

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

Cambridge, and, after a prayer from the President of Harvard College, went out to their work of throwing up redoubts; and this work begun in prayer, ended, sadly enough for the time, but at last in victory and praise. The hill is an open height with dwellings on every side, enclosed in an iron fencing, and bears on its top a lofty monument, worthy the scene it commemorates. Our words must be few. Here much history centres; and here one may grow wiser and better. Here read the little sketches given of the battle; and if you wish a commentary, add Webster's eloquent review of those times as given in his orations delivered in 1825 when the foundation was laid, and in 1843 when its completion was celebrated. You enter the monument through an iron gate, pay your fee of fifteen cents, buy a guide-book, secure a spy-glass, and begin the weary task of ascending the winding stairs within. The height is two hundred and twenty-one feet, all stone. You cannot well find harder travelling. Tramp, tramp, tramp, sound your footsteps up and down; and speaking, your words sound hollow and sepulchral. At length, after passing a number of ventilating windows or look-outs, and a number of gas-lights that scatter the midnight darkness, you reach the wished-for landing place. Four windows open out towards the cardinal points. From these you view Boston, Charlestown, the navyyard with its sheds, shops and ships, the harbor with its islands, sailors and steamers, its light-houses, forts and fortifications; you see long stretches of wharves, rail-roads, rivers and bridges-hospitals, alms-houses and prisons,-churches, burying-grounds and cemeteries. Taking a larger circle of vision, you see South Boston, Dorchester Heights, Quincy, Roxbury, and the whole nest of Cambridges.

Looking out toward the horizon, you can, on clear days, catch glimpses of Wachusett Mountain in Massachusetts, and the Monadnoc, Kearsarge and White Mountains in New Hampshire.

I have no doubt, good friend, you are tired reading; I am sure I tired looking; and the hundredth part is not set down here. Descending to the earth again, instead of fresh breast-works and excited militia-men, you

find comfortable seats for weary limbs, and a few citizen or stranger visitors resting on them; yet it is hardly more quiet here now than on 17th June, 1775; for busy voices are heard in every direction as you look around over the long array of roofs; clatter and clang, rip-rap and ring come up from

every side to this green spot, hallowed by patriot blood. You leave the place all the better for your meditations. It has so many lessons, particularly in these distracted times ! What a contrast between the rebel forces fortified on Bunker Hill in 1775 and those on Virginia heights in 1864!

The Navy Yard is so rich in interest that there is too much to be seen at one visit. The eyes tire even before the feet--thousands of cannon, balls, bales, wagons, horses, anchors, provisions, implements of every description. The cordage manufactory is an interesting sight, seeing how the raw hemp gradually passes into small cords, these twisted together into heavier, these ropes again twisted together, three into one, forming heavy cordage, and so on till this twisted hemp assumes proportions that seem to defy force. The yard and most of the buildings are open to visitors; but not all are thus free.

Pass to the ship-building department and innocently enter; a surly overseer rebuffs you with a surly “can't enter this building!” and you can only

stand on the door-step and look in. Hundreds of men are busy sawing, cutting, chopping, hewing, planing, lifting, drawing, hammering and driving. Ardet labor; the work goes briskly on. You soon observe, however, that notwithstanding all this büstle, stir and noise, the hands do not work very hard. Uncle Sam is sure to pay, and insists less on hurry and quick work, than on work well done. He allows the hands to work leisurely; ten men carry a log that five men would carry without much effort. Looking further you notice that he pays much for nothing; several ships, built nearly fifty years ago, never used and now out of date, must be left standing in the navy yard harbor, their precious timber, invested labor and capital rusting and rotting in the greenish waters around them.

There is too much to be seen and said, let us away. Several miles bring you to Lexington, the scenes of the first bloodshed in the war of '76. The name is enough-Lexington! It is only a small place; but neat frame dwellings, green mossy yards, abundant shade from tastý shrubbery, and handsome churches, make it one of those lovely, quiet villages where one would like to spend a lifetime, cut loose from this busy, noisy world. Its outward visible attractions themselves make it worthy of a visit; but, more than all these, it has higher interests-a name in history; and such a name! Its only hotel is a very large first class house, showing that the village is a favorite resort, being within half an hour's ride of the city and surrounding suburbs. In the centre of the town is the village green on which the militia assembled on the memorable 19th of April 1775 to oppose unjust invasion. Oh, how very interesting these places have become in these troubled times of wars and rumors of wars! No excited crowd is now hailed with “Disperse, Rebels!" A neat common-looking monument stands on the site of the conflict, and the whole ground is now within fencing. This humble monument and cool park mean much, and make one feel much. What stirring scenes, the small beginning of a series of great events!

The walk to Concord, six miles beyond Lexington, was delightful. A little history and a little meditation, give the heart a peculiar preparation to enjoy the journey. It is pleasant on the way to pass between the two identical old elms at Merriam's Corner, between which the British army passed. The village is one of those airy, shady places which you find only in New England. Elms, pines and poplars; clambering vines and evergreens; white, green-blinded cottages; shaded streets; there is no use in repetition—the only change is a different arrangement.

Quite within the village is a very old cemetery—the first opened in Concord long, long ago, and long since filled. There has been no grave dug in it for nearly a century. Blue granite or limestone marks the graves of these ante-Revolutionary fathers. Nearly all the graves are of the first half of the eighteenth century, and most of the inscriptions begin with the quaint

“Here Lyes Buried ye Body of” etc. The monument erected in memory of the skirmish which took place a few hours after that in Lexington, is about half a mile from the villagea humble structure, but marks a great event. It is a privilege to stand where was spilled the first blood in the war for freedom, to stand by the grave of two Britons--the first victims of the war-who fell that day. Only a few steps from the monument flows the peaceful Concord. All is quiet; no determined militia stand on the opposite bank, and no invading

« ZurückWeiter »