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Chapter 3

 

CHAPTER III

CONCORD MEMORIES

 

Concord is, or should be, the Mecca of the cultivated; one might search far in the Old World or the New and not find a town of such varied literary and historic interest. Memories of Hawthorne and Emerson, of Thoreau, Channing, and Margaret Fuller invest it, and there still remains the scholarly society that properly-accredited visitors have long found so pleasant.

One cannot walk far in the old town without finding something to please the fancy or stir the pulse. The goal of most tourists is the river and its famous bridge ó a half-mile from town; but on the way thither one meets a structure quite as famous in its way ó the Old Manse of Emerson and Hawthorne. It is quite old, and stands mossy and stately behind an avenue of elm and maple, with its numerous narrow-paned windows in front, and one lone outlook from its quaint dormer; still habitable and inhabited, although nearly one hundred and twenty years have passed since its stout frame was raised. A pretty green lawn surrounds the house, and an apple orchard slopes in the rear to the

 

 

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Concord. The house was built for the ministers of the town, and, save a short interregnum filled by Hawthorne, has always been occupied by them or their descendants. The room above the dining-room is the most notable. There Emerson wrote many of his best poems, and there the "Mosses from an Old Manse" were put into form and sent out to delight the world. From its northern window, it is said, the wife of the Rev. William Emerson watched the fight on Concord Bridge. It is but a stoneís throw a few steps along the road, a sharp turn to the left, and down a little knoll through the gloom of somber pines, until, under two ancient elms that saw the volleys of 1775, appear the river and the bridge.

It cannot be said that the people of Concord are indifferent to the preservation of their historic places. Two monuments mark the battleground, and when the old bridge became unsafe they built a new one óan exact copy of the old. On the hither side of the stream is a plain granite shaft, erected in 1836, bearing this inscription by Emerson: "Here on the 19th of April, 1775, was made the first forcible resistance to British aggression. On the opposite bank stood the American militia, and on this spot the first of the enemy fell in the war of the Revolution, which gave independence to these United States. In gratitude to God, and in the love of freedom, this monument was erected A.D. 1886." But after many years it was per-

 

16 In Olde Massachusetts

ceived by the people of Concord that to commemorate with monuments the spot where your enemy fell, and leave unmarked the ground where your patriot forefathers bled, was neither appropriate nor patriotic, and Mr. D. C. French, a young sculptor of the town, was commissioned to design a bronze statue to commemorate the minute-menís stand for liberty. Few statues of historic meaning are so simple and appropriate. The central idea is the minute-man in toil-stained attire, with ancient flintlock firmly grasped. The stern, tense visage of the man is admirably shown. The figure leans upon an old-fashioned plow, and stands on a simple granite base, on which are chiseled Emersonís well-known lines:

"By the rude bridge that arched the flood, Their flag to Aprilís sun unfurled, Here once the embattled farmers stood, And fired the shot heard round the world."

The two British soldiers left dead on the ground were buried on the afternoon of the Concord fight, by the stone wall near by. The grave is now protected by a railing, and marked by the inscription, "Grave of British soldiers," on a stone in the wall above it. ~

Except the Old Manse, the houses of literary interest are all on the other side of the town. If. from the village green one strolls down the Lexington road, a leisurely walk of five minutes will bring him to a fork in the road, facing which, on the right, is a plain,

 

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square country house, painted white, with the traditional picket fence in front, and sundry pines and maples bending protectingly over its square roofs. A drive leads through the road to a yellow barn in the rear, and flanking this is a garden of half an acre, in which, in their season, roses and a rare collection of hollyhocks may be found. This was for many years the home of Emerson. It has received and entertained the notables of two generations.

The left branch of the fork ó the old Boston Road ó leads in an eighth of a mile to Wayside, the former home of Hawthorne. The house pleases the esthetic taste rather more than that of the philosopher. It is nestled under one of the sharp spurs that define the Concord Valley, and deep groves of pines on the hillside and at its base contrast prettily with the green of the lawn and the neutral tints of the cottage. The house was later occupied by George P. Lathrop, the son-in-law of Hawthorne. The Orchard House, the former home of the Alcott family, adjoined Wayside on the north. Mr. Alcott removed from it as the infirmities of age came on, and resided in the village with a widowed daughter, Mrs. Pratt. In the winter Miss Louisa M. Alcott also made her home with them. In the same yard with the Alcott house stood a little, vine wreathed chapel, in which the lectures and discussions of the School of Philosophy were held.

The only house in Concord that can be said to have

 

18 In Olde Massachusetts

been distinctively Thoreauís home was the little shed on a sand bar of Walden Pond, which he built as a protest against the follies and complex wants of society. This house contained one room ten feet wide by fifteen long, a closet, a window, two trap-doors, and a brick chimney at one end. Its timbers were grown on the spot, the boards for its covering were procured from the deserted shanty of a railway laborer, and the whole cost of the structure did not exceed $80. In this house, through the most inclement season of the year ó from July to May ó the philosopher lived at an expense of $8.76 ó a striking reproof of modern folly and extravagance. The house on the Virginia road where Thoreau was born was standing in 1888, and the house where he died was later the residence of the Alcotts.

Perhaps the tourist will derive his most novel and permanent impressions of Concord from the cemeteries. The Hill Burying-ground, rising directly from the town square, is the most ancient, its oldest stone bearing date of 1677. Major John Buttrick, who commanded the patriots at the bridge, and the Rev. William Emerson, who by example advocated resistance to tyrants that morning, are interred here; and here Pitcairn stood to watch the fight and direct the movements of his troops. No other yard, I think, can furnish such novel and distinctive epitaphs. There is one, for instance, which shows when white marble, emblematic of purity, first began to be used for memorials, the

 

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favorite material before that having been red sandstone. Here is the inscription:

"This stone is designed by its durability to perpetuate the memory, and by its color to signify the moral character, of Miss Abigail Dudley, who died January 4, 1812 aged 78."

The epitaph to John Jack, an aged slave who died in 1778, is said to have been written by the Rev. Daniel Bliss, a former minister of Concord:

"God wills us free; man wills us slaves. I will as God wills; Godís will be done. Here lies the body of John Jack, a native of Africa, who died March, 1773, aged about sixty years. Though born in a land of slavery, he was born free. Though he lived in a land of liberty, he lived a slave; till by his honest though stolen labors he acquired the source of slavery, which gave him his freedom. Though not long before death, the grand tyrant, gave him his final emancipation, and put him on a footing with kings. Though a slave to vice, he practised those virtues without which kings are but slaves."

It would be difficult to imagine a more charming resting-place than Sleepy-Hollow Cemetery, Concordís modern place of interment. Originally it was a natural park of bill and dale, shaded by forest trees, with a beautiful hollow of perhaps an acre in extent in the center. The grounds were laid out in 1855, art being content to adorn rather than change natureís plan.

 

In Olde Massachusetts

Most of Concordís famous dead are buried here. Hawthorne, Thoreau, and Emerson lie on the same ridge, and almost in adjoining plots. Ascending the Ridge Path from the west, Thoreauís grave is seen on the brow of the ridge, beneath a group of tall pines. The lot is unenclosed. A brown-stone slab marks the authorís grave; the grave of his brother John, a youth of great promise, is close beside, and those of his father, mother, and two sisters share the lot. "May my life be not destitute of its Indian summer," Thoreau once prayed, and one learns from the stone that he was cut down before the summer had fairly come to him.

Hawthorneís tomb is but a few steps away, covered with myrtle, and marked by two small stones, one at the foot and one at the head. There are but two other graves in the plot ó those of his grandchildren, Francis H. and Gladys H. Lathrop.

Emerson was laid on the same hill summit, a short distance south.