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pushed their way into the most inaccessible regions, crossed rivers and mountain ranges and penetrated to the Pacific. The older communities were stirred by the same leaven. Massachusetts and Connecticut saw new towns founded; the regions of Vermont and Maine, long held back by their semidependent status, were rapidly filled by new settlers; Vermont was made a State and admitted to the Union in 1791, and Maine followed in 1820.
A similar new access of energy surged up in the social, intellectual, and religious life of the Nation. The old bonds of Puritanic restraint were broken; social experiments were ventured upon in all directions; new forces began to appear in politics, and in religion a widespread liberalizing movement set in, marked by sporadic revival movements and the great schism in New England when Unitarianism swept over the Congregational churches.
The time was electric with change. The transformation from colony to nation, though formally completed still left much to do in essentials. Many were still living who had seen the First Continental Congress and veterans of the Revolutionary War were to be met in every village. Washington had been dead but eleven years. Madison, the third of the great Virginian dynasty, occupied the Presidential chair. The first steamboat had passed up the Hudson but yesterday, and mails were still being carried by stage and postroad. Those who were to give the chief luster to American letters - Emerson, Longfellow, Whittier, Poe, Holmes - were all in their infancy. The slavery question had not yet spread its poison of disruption in the national veins; Garrison was a mere child, Sumner and Greeley were yet unborn, and Lincoln, who was to slay the dragon, was still in his cradle.
It might well be supposed that, however powerful and stirring such world-wide social, economic, or religious move
ments might be, they would have little or no effect upon a remote country hamlet such as that of Strafford in which Morrill grew up. The ocean billows of national or international politics, religion and thought, would, it seems, leave scarcely a ripple mark on those quiet and secluded shores. True it is that communication was slow, imperfect, and difficult; the Boston papers were belated, and when they came brought but dim reflections of the world's affairs. But we perhaps exaggerate the benefits of copious daily drafts of miscellaneous "news.” It may well be that fewer facts more deliberately ruminated and more earnestly discussed contributed to better digested and more tenaciously held opinions. It would be a mistake to infer any intellectual torpor or social inferiority in even the remote New England village of a century ago. Its people would themselves have been the last to admit any such inferiority..
Certainly in the account which Morrill wrote of the early settlers of Strafford after he had been in Congress there is no hint of the “fathers'” inferiority:
The early pioneers of any country, starting with the idea of hewing down the forest to make homes and habitations, are naturally strong and enterprising men and often of a high order of intellect. The first settlers of Strafford were conspicuously of this sort, possessing a large share of brain power, plenty of muscle, and they lived long, unfolding wit and wisdom and much originality of character. To delineate a part of these characters only would be neglecting many more quite as worthy, but to fully embrace them all would fill a moderate volume. Little more than mere mention of their names, with a few incidents, will be attempted, but these will recall many reminiscences, among those who knew the parties and many quaint anecdotes of more value than those here recited which have been current among the people of Strafford for nearly three quarters of a century.
Among the notabilities which should be embraced in this pioneer list, not including all, are such names as Colonel Gove,
Samuel Eastman, Jonathan and Abel Rich, Leonard and Freeman Walker, Deacon Moses Brown, Esq., Ben. Preston, Colonel Asahel Chamberlin, Elijah Beaman, Moses Sanborn, Captain John Powell, Willard Carpenter, Elder Aaron Buzzell, Smith Morrill, (Solomon Huntress), John Rowell, Samuel 1 and Levi Root, Henry Blaisdell, Frederick Smith, sen., Levi Bacon, sen., Silas Alger, Rev. Joab Young, Samuel Bliss, sen., the Barretts, Ben. Tucker, Ebenezer White, sen., Rev. Hadlock Massy, Rev. Jordan Dodge, Philip Judd, Peter Pennock, and Reuben Morey, now living, who has voted at every Presidential election since the foundation of the government, etc., etc.
Of Abel Rich, as of others, many anecdotes still live. He had a droll wit, and prolonged the sound nasally of the last word of every sentence immensely. Attending an evening conference meeting where the minister was faithfully performing his duties by pressing various inquiries, he was asked whether or not he had got religion and he answered, “Not any to boast of, I tell ye-e-e." Paying court to a girl, he offered himself, but she asked for a little time to consider the matter. “Take," said he, "take to all etarnitee-ee-ee" — and he never went to see her more. It was his practice always to go to church on the Sabbath, and he long held the office of tytheing man, carrying with him a long rod, to the great terror of whispering boys and girls. When the revivalist Birchard was holding a protracted meeting in town, he went, and after listening to one discourse he came out very indignant and said, “I have heard there is talk of a mob-b-b. If Birchard should be mobbed and I was the only witness, I would forget it before morning-g-g, that I would-d-d.”
Elder Aaron Buzzell, Free-Will Baptist, long preached acceptably to the largest church in town – performing the marriage ceremony for all that were to be married and attending the funeral service of nearly all that were buried. He was a “Bible and Dr. Watts" preacher, knowing each almost by heart. His sermons and prayers were original and peculiar. His arguments and illustrations, unlettered as he was, were often curiously apt and forcible. He was also full of lively humor, as well as of pious song. Everybody loved him because they felt that one of his aphorisms might be truly applied to himself: "There is no greatness without goodness and no goodness without greatness." He
· Brother of Governor Erastus Root, of New York.
declined any salary and only accepted the voluntary contributions of his people, which were never overabundant and sometimes rather deficient. The year 1806 was a season of revival in his church as well as of early and late frosts. The crops were nearly all cut off, and he was sorely pressed to supply, by his limited farm and stray jobs of tailoring, the daily wants of a large family of boys and girls. One Sabbath while in the midst of a sermon, he indulged in one of his appeals to the church for a proper support. Said he, “Brother So-and-So says, 'Go on, Brother Buzzell, you are doing a good work. I'll pray for you.' Sister So-and-So says, 'Brother Buzzell, we are all rejoiced at your success here this winter and we all pray for you daily.' Now, my brethren, when my children are starving for bread I would give more for a half-bushel of good sound corn than for a hundred such prayers. I have thrashed this subject so long that I am afraid you will prove to me that I have been only thrashing old straw.”
The presentation of the Harris library to the village in 1883 gave Senator Morrill another occasion to recall the early elders of the place.
I am aware she said] that we have had in town a few men of rather rare, perhaps eccentric, character, whose reading appeared almost exclusively confined to one book, but that one the Bible and the best. I refer to Abner Hall, Abel Rich, and my grandfather Morrill. It was difficult to read any verse in the Old or New Testament that Mr. Hall could not tell from what book and chapter it came. The old proverb of 'beware of the man of one book' was very applicable, for they were all addicted to Biblical controversy, full of humorous cranks and quiddities, and did not so much appreciate the history and sublimity of its great chapters and the beauty and force of the English language displayed, as they did its hooks upon which to hang arguments, but they obeyed generally its simple laws and Christian ethics, which at least made them, in all their dealings man with man, upright and downright.
Then, as now, Vermont was divided into two parts by the mountains that split the State lengthwise from north to
south, so that the western half, fronting on Lake Champlain, Lake George, and the Hudson River, faced toward New York and drew its intellectual guidance thence, while the eastern half, bounded by the Connecticut River, faced toward Boston both in fact and in opinion. Both sections were largely wilderness where game was plentiful and where bears, foxes, lynx, marten, and other wild animals were to be found; tillage was limited, but sheep flourished, and in favored districts horses and cattle. During the long winters hunting, trapping, and lumbering were the chief outdoor occupations, while within spinning-wheels whirred and looms clacked with the women's work of making homespun for the family clothes. Winter brought abundant snow, and with the snow comparative ease of travel. By snowshoe and sleigh miles were lightly covered, and convivial parties in the wide, low-beamed houses, warmed by vast hearth-fires of wood, made up for the imprisonment of spring and fall when the wretched roads, deep in mud, sometimes blocked even the stages and the great wagons of the storekeepers with their six-horse teams.
It was a pastoral and village community; the eastern counties had no large towns, nor have they yet, but their people were almost wholly of native stock, of sturdy character, self-reliant, and accustomed to find their way through difficulties. There is a passage among Senator Morrill's papers in which he writes of Vermont as a true son of the Green Mountain State should — a passage of genuine feeling:
As the seasons change, all the birds of passage are apt to take wing and seek more congenial places of resort. Even men become migratory and run for life in large flocks to cooler or warmer latitudes: some for health, some for pleasure, and all to empty overloaded pockets. I have noticed, however, that the robin,