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Chapter 7 - Pages 95-105

Afternoon Exercises.

But neither the epicurean delights of the dinner, the wonderful and various treasurers of the antiquarian room, nor the charms of pleasant converse and companionship made people forget the hour of the afternoon exercises. The hall was filled as in the morning, a decrease of numbers being shown rather in an increased comfort among the audience than by vacant seats. The speakers, like the victims designed in olden time to amuse the Roman populace, were on exhibition upon the platform. In introducing the afternoon programme, Mr. Whitman Chase, of Harvard College, read the appropriate poem here appended:

Whitman Chase. author of the poem of the afternoon, is the son of Capt. Whitman and Mehitable D. Chase, and was born in North Dighton October 27, 1867. He graduated from Bristol Academy, Taunton, and entered Harvard College without conditions at the age of seventeen. He takes great interest in literary studies, and has already shown marked ability in that direction.

LINES ON THE DEDICATION OF GOFF’S MEMORIAL HALL.

 

Though prosy praters ridicule

The Poet’s product and his rhythmic rule,

And vote to him the lowest place

In arts which benefit our mace.

A man of care and thoughtful mind,

 

HISTORIC REHOBOTH 

If he should study deep, would find

how much the gift of rhyming tends

To aid and cheer and teach, and lends

A harmony, a condiment, to season life,

And gives a respite in its eager strife.

From earliest times the usage came,

Since David dared the Lord proclaim;

Since Homer lived, and Sappho's lyre

Inflamed the Grecian heart with fire;

Since Norland Skalds their sages sang,

Since Welsh and Scottish ballads rang

Throughout their native hills, imparting power

To warriors in the needful hour.

Since then, whene’er a work of note

the assembled public gather to promote,

Or column raised, or victory won,

Or public edifice begun,

Straightway the Poet summons up his skill

To charm or sicken, or to cure or kill;

This custom prompts, nor worth of rhyme,

To dare intrude upon your time.

Who, since the last revolving year

Has run its course, has chanced to hear

Rehoboth named, but failed to hear the hall?

Already part and parcel of the all,

We meet to dedicate in formal way,

A source of pride this offering of to-day.

Pride? Yes, for though you take a large amount

In well—tilled farms, or lengthy bank account,

Enlightenment a worthier cause can show,

And public spirit more pretension know.

What good can wholly selfish breathing give?

For merely to exist is half to live;

And half to live is not to live at all;

A rather faulty logic you may call

Such reasoning, still, must you not confess

It does a little truth express?

Accomplishment is reached at last,

Enjoyment comes, the labor’s past;

This clay’s momentous deed will crown

An epoch in the annals of the town,

And seasons hence you’ll hear your townsmen say,

 

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When calling up some old occurrence laid away

In blank forgetfulness: " It happened in the fall

Of ‘85, the year they built the hall.

 

Here let me leave the usual road

Of travel to relate an episode:

One day in sore perplex, Minerva came

To grimy Vulcan’s drear abode of flame,

With troubled brow the aged man bespoke

And thus essayed assistance to invoke— "Alas, that Jove assigned to me

The care and weal of human destiny;

It grieves me much to see men raise,

Huge towers of stone in other’s praise,

And strive to build, with precious means and moil,

A useful work which scarce requites their toil.

Now lend your aid, some well-wrought plan devise

To show these mortals where their error lies,

and thus employ your wisdom, learned of years,

To loose my cares and cease my flow of tears."

 

Long pondered Vulcan o’er his art,

Long sought the wished for service to impart,

Till many an age of short enduring man

had seen the day, and passed its earthly span;

Until he gained the precious prize he sought,

Until he reared with matchless labor fraught,

Upon a solid fundament of stone,

A structure not for ornament alone,

Though made with beauty, and with art combined,

But still suggestive, useful, fitting, well designed,

And high relieved upon the outward wall,

He wrote the legend, "Goff ‘s Memorial Hall."

 

PRESENTATION OF REV. MR. TILTON’S PORTRAIT.

After the adjournment of the morning session a member of the committee of arrangement sought a private interview with Dr. Taylor, and communicated the fact that, entirely unbeknown to Mr. Tilton, an excellent likeness of him had been procured by several of his friends, which they proposed to have presented early in the exercises in the afternoon, and they desired him to render

 
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the appropriate service. Matters were arranged accordingly. At the conclusion of the poem, Mr. Tilton, the moderator, was requested to suspend for a little the regular order of exercises that a brief statement might be made by another. The portrait in the meantime had quietly been brought in closely veiled. Dr. Taylor requested the covering to be removed in the presence of the audience, and accompanied the transaction with a brief address to the unconscious victim of the embarrassing surprise.

 

My DEAR SIR :-—In the profession we are called to serve, one of the most pleasing and gratifying rewards of our labor is derived from these expressions of gratitude and fond esteem which we are permitted from time to time to receive. Burdens are rendered easy, labors light, as hearts of affection respond so cordially to earnest endeavors for their good. These sacred fountains of abiding joy are opened to the ministry as no where else. In his walks of usefulness the person of the pastor becomes at length associated with the most hallowed things in the sanctuary and the home, and his countenance as the benediction of an angel of God, and everywhere there springs up a strong desire to retain the sacred image.

And so it comes to pass that I have this pleasant surprise for you, and it suits well my spirit of revenge to return your own methods when you made me wonder and weep as the results of your generous deeds were revealed. Behold this picture! What say you to its fidelity to the original? Can you see yourself as others see you?

Your friends think the likeness excellent. They hope it will seem perfect in your own eyes. It is not so much a treasure for to-day as for future times. Those who are about you now prefer the living, abiding original. But

 

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when you will not be here, and the story of your work is told to the children, how happy they will be to point to this canvass and say there is the likeness of the good man. Please accept this token of their loving regard, and let it adorn the walls of this Memorial Hall, where your abundant and successful labors are so manifest, and may the memory of this tender scene, and this so appropriate transaction, remain with you as a source of abiding joy through all days.

Mr. Tilton in response said: If I am expected to reply to this speech I shall disappoint you. If I have ever been taken by surprise it is now. I don’t know what I can say, my heart is so touched by this token of your affection. I will not attempt to make a speech; I will only say from my heart I thank you, and may God bless you always.

MR. DAVID A. WALDRON’S TRIBUTE.

Mr. David A. Waldron, President of the Barrington Historic Antiquarian Society, being called upon, spoke of the influence which such a society and such a building would have in years to come, not only upon the inhabitants of the good old town of Rehoboth, but as a pebble cast into the sea causes its pulse to beat until its vibrations reached the shores of other lands, so other communities would be blessed by this enterprise. His own town had already been provoked to good works by the example set them by this society, through whose efforts we see such results to-day.

A little more than a year ago, in driving through this village, he met the President of your Society, who invited him to visit the antiquarian room, then located in a building near by—not such an imposing edifice as we find here to-day but it made such an impression upon

 
100 HISTORIC REHOBOTH.

 

his mind of the magnitude of the work which had been inaugurated that soon after measures were taken to organize a society in Barrington, and in recognition of the debt for the example thus set they have seen fit to make the Rev. George H. Tilton, President of the Rehoboth Society, an honorary member of the Society in Barrington. He presented Mr. Tilton with a finely engraved certificate of membership, properly signed, bearing the State arms, a picture of the building which the Society hope soon to have erected, drawn by the same architects who made the plans for the "Goff Memorial," and also the significant seal of the Society.

Mr. Tilton then resumed his duties as chairman, and with grateful compliment and in fitting terms presented the speakers of the afternoon. As the time was limited all spoke briefly and without notes. Their addresses appear in the order in which they were given:

 

RESPONSE OF GEN. OLNEY ARNOLD.

I received a notice from my friend Mr. Goff my young friend I should have said a week ago and the programme gave me a great deal of pleasure. The number of distinguished names upon it assured me that it would be an intellectual feast, and I have realized it to the fullest extent of my anticipations. It also gave me another pleasure and that was, that I was relieved from the anxiety that I might have felt at the bare possibility of being called upon to say something on the occasion. My personal friends in Pawtucket know that for a few years past, on occasions like this, I have armed myself with a doggerel poem, and when the time came I read it, and I~ have never been called upon by the same parties a second time. I have never tried it here and I greatly regret that I am without that weapon of defense. Mr. Chairman, it

 
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was very kind of you, I know, to call upon me after the distinguished and cultured gentlemen who have spoken to-day, so much to the satisfaction of all.

ADDRESS BY EDGAR PERRY.

I wish, first of all, to thank your President for introducing me as "a native of Rehoboth." In this presence and on this occasion who could ask a higher encomium? True, his reference to my adoption by another municipality disturbed me for a moment, until I reflected that Attleborough is a daughter of Rehoboth, and that I, therefore, had simply changed from a son to a grandson—a relationship which many have proved brings them just as near the grand-dame’s heart.

And yet with all the honors which accrue to the original household to-day, we of Attleborough, Cumberland, old Seekonk and Swansea, have no apology to offer for the daughters’ estates. \\Te hold rather that Attleborough’s hundred jewelry firms; Cumberland’s daily product of 150,000 yards of cloth ; the varied industries of Pawtucket—to the chiefest of which this Memorial owes so much —together with the thriving business at Rumford, and the prosperous husbandry of Seekonk and Swansea, do not rival each other nor the mother town, but together contribute to that honor which to-day covers in benediction all the original boundaries of the ancient colony. Our interests are those of a common household, reciprocal and interdependent.

So, in imagination, we may consider ourselves at a grand family reunion. The maternal township of Rehoboth, with eye undimmed and natural force unabated, receives here at the old homestead, which some of her many sons remain to till, the four daughters whom she married to brave and

 
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virtuous citizenship years ago. All are still young, and with their large families are present to-day in festive mood and holiday attire.

One has driven hither in her own equipage behind a dashing span of greys. Even a casual glance shows that both carriage and horses have been selected with an appreciative eye. Her dress tells us she is no stranger in Gotham, and her speech that she has ready intercourse with the Hub. She sinks gracefully into the easy chair procured expressly for this occasion, with the unconscious air of one who is used to the good things of life at home. With a loving, generous smile, which rejoices in the evident prosperity of her kindred, she asks after the health of the household. The book she selects from the centre table evinces a taste for good reading, and she joins the conversation in a way that shows wide information and a practical shrewdness which marks her as her mother’s own child. In a spirit more of loyalty to the handicraft of her sons than of any weak, personal vanity, she has adorned herself with bracelets, ear-drops, pins and rings, and, as she sees her Puritan mother viewing the finery with a suggestion of reproach, she rises and gives her a hearty "smack," and, with a twinkle in her eye that disarms the satire, says

Jewels are baubles; 'tis a sin

To care for such unfruitful things:

One good sized diamond in a pm— Some, not so large, in rings— A ruby and a pearl or so.

Will do for me;—I laugh at show

The daughter from the neighboring estate disregards diamonds, but we hasten to say from no sense of poverty, for she has a Diamond Hill on her premises. But when a mere girl she evinced a fondness for machinery, and used

 
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always to spin the flax and wool for the household. And when she married and settled over by the Blackstone, she quickly saw the benefits of applying water power to weaving, and now her Lonsdale mills make cloth for the whole country. She may notice with satisfaction that the granite posts by the roadside came from her own quarries, and the horse shoe over the door from her forges at Valley Falls. She is a quiet, industrious body, and, possibly busy in designing some new fabric, takes very little share in the conversation until the labor question is broached. Then she shows she has decided opinions and can make them heard and felt. We can believe her sentiments voice the family respect for honest industry, and

"Haply from them the toiler, bent

Above his forge or plow, may gain

A manlier spirit of content,

And feel that life is wisest spent

W here the strong working hand

makes strong the

 working brain."

Tall and fair, but with the glow of rustic health in her cheek, comes the western daughter, who wins the partial welcome due the youngest child. She is no stranger at the old homestead, for, like the mother, she is wedded to husbandry, and together they often discuss the mysteries of the dairy and the prospects of the garden. Located nearer the centre of trade, she does a flourishing business in all kinds of farm products, and, though not a few of her sons have become wealthy, the tenor of her household refutes the proverb "That plain living and high thinking are no more." She is a model farmer’s wife, her only variation from her mother’s cooking being the substitution of Rumford "Bread Preparation" for potato yeast. And she says she uses that just to patronize "the boys." Industrious, intelligent and devoted, she is typical of the town—

 
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in whose neat homesteads woman holds
 With modest ease, her equal place, And wears Upon her tranquil face

The look of one who, merging not
 Her selfhood in another will,
 Is love’s and duty's handmaid still."

First to come and last to leave is the eldest daughterone whose enterprises in copper coinage and ship building won her a competence long ago. We can almost imagine that she has taken upon herself the burden of entertainment to-day, and will trust no one else to bake the shad for dinner. She has just come in, plump and jovial, to say they’ll be cooked in half an hour, and, without stopping to roll down her sleeves, kisses "the girls" all round, and asks the grandchildren out to the pantry for doughnuts! Free handed in hospitality, diligent in business, patriotic in war and constant in the faith, this elder municipal sister and daughter happily lives and thrives

With Earth and Ocean reconciled

* * * * * *

Under the walls

Where swells and falls

The Bay’s deep breast at intervals.

But enough of metaphor. From our town’s past so honorable, and present so benign, we turn a questioning eye on the future. And we do it with confidence, for "The best of prophets of the Future is the Past," "And in to-day already walks to-morrow."

There is no reason to despond over Rehoboth’s industrial future. Situated as it is, with main lines of railroad on every side, and no portion of it more than an hour’s ride from some station, it offers facilities that half the farmers in New England might envy. With the growing municipalities about her Attleborough on the north,

 
HISTORIC REHOBOTH. 105

Taunton on the east, Fall River toward the south and Providence ever coming nearer on the west there is no reason why a Rehoboth young man should hold his heritage lightly. And what a heritage it is! Acres which a resolute and self-denying ancestry redeemed from barbarism and defended of times with their blood; homes which have been brightened by the births, gladdened by the weddings, and hallowed by the deaths of seven generations; walls, which if they could speak, might tell us how costly was the sowing and how careful has been the husbandry of this our nation to this day. "A heritage, it seems to me, a king might wish to hold in fee."

It is for us this day, with no weak sentiment, but with resolute purpose, to be consecrated to the work which other generations have left US to perform. And whether as readers we learn from history’s page the story which other men have wrought out, often in poverty, often in tears, often by the fitful glimmer of a midnight lamp; or whether as journalists we strive to catch and hold the present by the "art preservative," it is for us all here this day to remember that—


 "Life is a sheet of paper white,
 
Whereon each one of us may write

His word or two and then comes night.

Greatly begin; and though thou have time

But for a line, be that sublime;

Not failure, but low aim is crime."