Chapter 24

Chapter XXIV


Northampton — Jenny Lind’s paradise, the only corollary Fanny Kemble could find to her beloved Lenox — is spread all over one of the foot-hills of the Connecticut valley: it is an anomaly among country towns. Its main street is not a street at all, but a park, a plaza, a common, reaching from the river bottom to the summit of the hill. Its buildings have none of that air of having been hastily thrown together which characterizes those of modern towns. Each house has its lawn in front, its trim box-wood walks and shrubbery; one sees scarcely an untidy, ill-kept place in the town. The wide valley of the Connecticut is above and below; in front, across the river, rises the hoary head of Mount Holyoke, and opposite him, overtopping us, is Mount Tom, not quite so high, but fully as rugged. A good carriage road ascends Mount Holyoke to within 600 feet of the summit, whence a railway completes the ascent. Arrived at the summit one finds a comfortable summer hotel and a noble view. The Connecticut crawls lazily through its meadows for miles beneath. You can see the smoke of Springfield’s furnaces seven-




teen miles to the southward; half a score of villages, some alive with looms and spindles, some drowsily nodding under century-old elms, are within the range of vision.

There is Holyoke, with its great paper-mills, and Easthampton, in the shadow of Mount Tom, with its famous boys’ school and its shaded main street, which I once heard a party of tourists comparing with that of Easthampton, L. I. Manufactories are crowding in there now to disturb its quiet, scholarly air. Here in Hadley, which lies just across the Connecticut from Northampton, Dr. Holland laid the scene of "Kathrina," and there is still left material for many a poem and romance. The glory of old Hadley is its elms. Wide-spreading and ancient, they enclose an oval-shaped common nearly a mile long, of quiet, solitary beauty. All the grown-up sons and daughters are away in the cities. The narrow avenue formed by the double row of elms on the west side of the park seemed to us beautiful enough to often allure them back to the town of their birth. In South Hadley is a famous female seminary, whose graduates have had a notable habit of becoming missionaries’ wives. Amherst, with her spires and college buildings, peeps out among the hills but eight miles away. If we turn our eyes westward, they rest on the noble Berkshire Hills, and further north on the Hoosac range, walling in the valleys of the Housatonic, the Deerfield and the Hoosac




Amid all these villages Northampton is preeminent. The artist or author finds here an exceedingly congenial atmosphere. Here is no hurry, no rush for wealth or place. Almost every householder is buttressed with a substantial bank account, and at leisure to devote himself to art, to local history, to gossip, or to any occupation to which his tastes incline. An air reflective, historical, pervades the town. Much attention is paid to genealogy and antiquities. Visit any of these fine old houses, and you find family legends and relics carefully treasured. The visitor is not long here before he learns that Jonathan Edwards made his first essays at preaching in the town, and be is taken down King Street to see the site of the home he inhabited for twenty-three years, with its hoary elm in front, in the fork of which the divine wrote some of his wonderful sermons; then you are led back to the main street and up the hill to look on the Edwards Church, a somewhat imposing edifice that now occupies the site of the plain meeting-house in which he delivered them. Edwards left his tutorship in Yale College in the winter of 1726 to become the colleague of his maternal grandfather, the Rev. Solomon Stoddard, who had become too infirm to perform alone the duties of his office. I heard some pleasant gossip of this family the Stoddards which will bear repeating.

"The Rev. Solomon Stoddard, Edwards’s grandfather," said my informant, "was the fourth pastor




of Northampton. His wife, Mrs. Esther Stoddard, when he married her, was the widow of the Rev. Eleazer Mather, his predecessor in the sacred office. They reared a somewhat remarkable family of girls. The oldest, Mary, married the Rev. Stephen Mix, the promising pastor of a neighboring charge. Their courtship was a novel one, even for that day. He proposed for her to her father, and suggested that she should take due time for consideration. She did so, and after several weeks wrote the following laconic note:

"November, 1695.



"The second daughter, Esther, who had been well educated at Boston, married the Rev. Timothy Edwards, of East Windsor, Conn., with whom she lived happily for sixty-three years. Of their eleven children, all but one were girls, and that one boy became the celebrated divine, Jonathan Edwards. I once saw a letter written by Mrs. Stoddard, his grandmother, to his mother at the time of his birth, which interested me so much that I copied it. Here it is:


"DEAR DAUGHTER: God be thanked for yr safe delivery and raising you up to health again. We are under mixt dispensations; We have a great deal of






mercy, and we have smart afflictions. Eliakim is not, and Eunice is not, and it hath pleased God to take away your dear brother Israel also, who was taken by the French and carried to a place called Brest in France, and being ready to be transported to England died there.

"P.S. I would have sent you half a thousand of pins and a porringer of marmalade if I bad an opportunity.’

"Four other daughters married clergymen, but there was nothing in their courtships or wedded lives so marked as to attract the notice of the gossips. Northampton, by the way, has been very generous to ministers in pursuit of helpmates. A local annalist has discovered that between 1673 and 1879, eighty-four Northampton ladies married clergymen.

"During Edwards’s pastorate a very affecting incident occurred in the death, at the parsonage on King Street, of David Brainerd, the devoted young missionary to the Indians. The young man was the friend and protégé of the great metaphysician, as well as the accepted lover of his daughter Jerusha, and as he was friendless, nothing was more natural than that he should be taken in his last illness into the family of his friend. In the breast of Jerusha Edwards he had inspired a passionate attachment. From the 25th of July, 1747, till his death, on the 9th of October, she watched over




him with the most tender assiduity, and survived him but four months, literally dying, the gossips aver, of a broken heart."

An incident, related as occurring at the close of the Revolution, sounds like a travesty on some modern events. The treaty of peace with Great Britain in 1781 was celebrated in Northampton after the simple custom of the day, by a sermon from the Rev. Mr. Spring, and by a festive gathering in the evening, at which, we are told, "much decent mirth and hilarity prevailed, but from which the ladies were rigidly excluded." What curtain lectures the luckless members of the party were treated to that night is not on record, but the ladies were far too excited and indignant to allow the matter to pass over with only private reprobation. They held a tea-drinking next day, and after drinking loyally to the health of Madam Washington and to Congress, they introduced a series of toasts of which these are examples: "Reformation to our Husbands," "May Gentlemen and Ladies ever Unite on Joyful Occasions," "Happiness and Prosperity to our Families," "May Reformed Husbands ever find Obedient Wives." In fact, the aggrieved ladies carried things with such high hand that their meeting became the talk of a wide circle of towns, and led one of the poets of the day to satirize it in some highly impertinent verses.

The old cemetery at Northampton well repays a visit.




It is a pretty place at the end of the main street, near the river, shaded by a few native pines, most of its tombstones bearing the quaint form and pious inscriptions of a long-buried generation. Two of the most interesting plots are on the west side. A granite monument, in one recently erected, bears this inscription:

"President Jonathan Edwards,

Born Oct. 5, 1703,

Died March 1758.

"Sarah Pierrepont, his wife,

Born Jan. 9, 1709,

Died Oct. 2, 1758."


A similar stone stands in the adjoining lot, and bears this inscription:


"Timothy Dwight,

Born May p27, 1726,

Died May 10, 1777.


"Mary Edwards, wife of

Timothy Dwight, born

April 4th, 1784, died

Feb. 28, 1807."


Turning to the more modern aspects of the town, we observe in the public libraries and in Smith College interesting exponents of the culture of which we have




spoken. The library, comprising some 18,000 well-chosen volumes, is comfortably housed in the elegant Memorial Hall, erected by the town in 1869—70, at a cost of $25,000, in memory of its soldiers slain in the civil war. In the vestibule of this Hall are marble tablets bearing the names of those who fell in the war, and above is the main library-room, with a capacity of 100,000 volumes, with reception and reference rooms on either hand. The shelves would have been filled ere this but for the fact that the library fund of $40,000 was stolen in the famous robbery of the Northampton National Bank in 1876, and has never been recovered.