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Doctor Tucker, Priest-Musician:
A Sketch which Concerns the Doings and Thinkings of
the Rev. John Ireland Tucker, S.T.D.
Including a Brief Converse about the Rise and Progress of Church Music in America.

By Christopher W. Knauff, M.A.

New York: A.D.F. Randolph, 1897.

Chapter XI. The Boys' School

Dr. Muhlenberg was never forgotten by any of his former pupils. On Christmas day in the year 1856, a number of his sons gathered at the Church of the Holy Communion in New York, to take part in a service which would remind them of the old days at the Institute and at St. Paul's College. They with other schoolmates had united in the purchase of a picture, "The Gospel at Home," painted by Hubner, which was then presented to the venerated school-father. The first name on the list of the committee having the matter in charge is Gregory Thurston Bedell, and the second John Ireland Tucker.

It has been remarked that the Rector of the Holy Cross was himself a witness of the fashioning handiwork of Dr. Muhlenberg. Certain it is that he followed his master in the aesthetics of divine service, in devotion to music and the use of the art, and in his passion for the duty of an educator.

The school of girls had been started before he came to Troy; it was the backbone of the undertaking. As soon as the new Rector arrived upon the scene, he entered into the plan with eagerness. He began his career of successful service as a teacher; he himself instructed, five or more hours a day, and so he continued to do until the end of his life.

After matters had progressed for some years, he felt that there ought to be an enlargement of the beneficiary agency. He desired that boys as well as girls should be subject to the guiding influence.

As it turned out, he undertook too much. It seems to be a rule that when one man takes up the superintendency of two separate houses, one for boys, another for girls, that one of the two must go to the wall.

The ultimate discontinuance at Troy subtracted nothing from the fact that the Rector desired to render a full service, and that he rounded out the plan of Christian education.

A Boys' School was commenced. It lasted not many years, and yet its memory is cherished. Every now and then I hear a remark about it which shows the affectionate regard bestowed upon it.

For an account of the undertaking, I am indebted to one of the "old boys," now Rector of St. Luke's Church, Maiden, Mass. Dr. Albert Danker sets down his memories; he kindly grants permission to quote from his manuscript:

I have attended the Holy Cross, more or less, since I was ten years old. It was a church which impressed the young, particularly by its ritual and architecture, so different from the other churches of the city at that day, for it was the advance guard of that mighty host which has spread throughout our whole land, worshipping the Lord in the "beauty of holiness."

The "Boys' School of the Holy Cross "was established by Dr. Tucker in 1855, as a first-class institution, to furnish boys with an English and classical education, fitting them for college or business life. It lasted four years only, but in that time sent forth many a youthful alumnus who afterward distinguished himself in trade or a profession. It held its sessions in the old Van der Ileyden mansion--on Eighth street, nearly opposite the Holy Cross--destroyed in the great fire of 1862.

How well I remember the dear boys who recited together there during those pleasant years, under the instruction of Dr. Tucker, Dr. J. D. Lomax, now Medical Superintendent of the Marshall Infirmary in Troy, and others. The classmates and fellow pupils of my youth rise before me as I write, with their fresh young faces and bright, lively ways; they pass before my mental vision as though it were only yesterday;--Charles Sigourney Knox, and Hiram Nazro, who afterward bore off the highest honors in Columbia College; Jared L. Bacon, George M. King, Le Grand Cramer, Bernard Blair, Thomas Brinsmade Heimstreet, John H. Knox, James Knox, Matthew Vassar, Palmer Baermann, Samuel Tappan, Charles H. Dauchy, J. De L'Orme Reeve, James H. and Henry Ferriss, Albert Daggett, Samuel N. Rudkin, Charles R. Cross, Anson G. Gardner, Le Grand Benedict, and my own brother, Henry A. Danker. Some of these beloved comrades are waiting their joyful resurrection. Others have distinguished themselves in various walks of life in Troy and elsewhere.

One of the most pleasant features of our Saturday mornings at the school was our dramatic performance, which seemed to afford much pleasure to friends and relatives. Sheridan's "Rivals," Allingham's "Fortune's Frolic," "The Doom of the Tory's Guard," and many other plays were performed, either in whole or part, together with original dramas. We had a literary society with its paper, debates, etc., called the "Cadmean Society," which was of great benefit to us.

Dr. Tucker spent much time, hearing our recitations himself. The boys were all very fond of him, and owe much to the fine taste, critical scholarship, and genial manner with which he imparted instruction.

Professor William Hopkins taught us music weekly. I fear we were a difficult crowd to teach this divine art. One of our favorite mathematical instructors was Charles C. Martin, then a student at the "Rensselaer Institute." now chief engineer of the famous Brooklyn Bridge. C. Whitman Boynton was another instructor in the same department. He was one of the most rapid calculators in a problem on the blackboard I have ever seen, covering it with figures in a few moments.

I cannot close this article without at least a reference to Mrs. Mary Warren and her sons. They felt and expressed so much interest in the Church and the school and came so often to our exhibitions that we felt much attached to them. They always had a kindly smile and gentle word for all of us, and we never shall forget them, or the influence of the daily morning prayer at the Holy Cross, which we all attended, and which moulded the heart and after life of many a boy.

The noble Warren brothers and their beloved mother, Mary Warren, deserve their meed of honest praise as well, for efforts to introduce and popularize all the ancient and time-honored customs of the Anglican communion connected throughout the ages of the past with the grand old feast, the Birthday of the Blessed Christ. Dear Dr. Tucker and the brothers Dr. Nathan and Stephen Warren have done, more than most of their contemporaries thus to revive, on this side of the Atlantic, those quaint and beautiful observances and customs which our own charming Washington Irving has immortalized in his "Sketch Book."

It was reserved for the Church of the Holy Cross to inaugurate a revival of the rites of olden time, which transported the young beholder back to those noble days of the Church of England, when, as Sir Walter Scott has written,

Domestic and religious rite Gave honor to the Holy Night.

My Holland ancestry had trained me to appreciate peculiarly this revival in the Episcopal Church of ancient customs, ceremonies and traditions of "Merrie England" in days of yore; as the Yule log, the Mummers and Maskers, Lord of Misrule, the "Boar's Head Carol," and "The Good St. Nicholas," also the Christmas table smoking with good old plum pudding, mince pie, furmity and many another dish which the ancient Puritans proscribed and ordered to be abolished in the endeavor to rule Christmas with its sports and pastimes out of the calendar.

Our Boys' School always had a special celebration of their own in the school-house on Eighth street. Here during Christmas week Dr. Tucker had an appropriate stage erected with curtain and scenery, and the boys performed "St. George and the Dragon," "Bombastes Furioso," and other plays and burlesques suitable to the season, to the great delight apparently of our admiring friends.

Later on, in the years after this building was burned and the school was closed, the good doctor and myself, then in deacon's orders, and assisting him in the Church, arranged a series of Christmas plays and pastimes in the "Mary Warren Institute" in imitation of the olden sports, masking and mumming in the ancient baronial halls of old England.

Most laughable and amusing was this entertainment to the crowd of children and friends who filled the building. What screams of laughter greeted the breaking asunder by accident of the "Guyascutus," the strange animal with a head at both ends of his body, and the discovery thus of the two young fellows within who guided the creature's movements! And what a wonderful giant Mr. Wagstaff, the sexton, made with a false face elevated far up in the air upon a pole; draped with a concealing cloak, and whose advent in the hall caused some of us actually to grow pale with affright at our own creation, like the monster in Shelley's "Frankenstein"!

Then followed the festal banquet, where the tables groaned with the viands, plum pudding, roast goose and all the mediaeval delicacies which Dr. and Stephen Warren had hospitably served with the generosity of the ancient lord of the manor.

As may well be imagined, the establishment of the Boys' School brought an additional tax upon the time and strength of the Rector, as well as a heavy drain upon his financial resources. Dr. Lomax writes:

Although the school was called a pay-school, a very large number of pupils received their tuition free. In fact, in every instance where it was known to the Rector that the circumstances of the parents were such that they could not pay, the bills were sent to them receipted, and those who paid no attention to the bills were never reminded of their indebtedness. The income from tuition was therefore very small. Indeed I do not believe it was at any time sufficient to meet half of the expenses of the school. To carry on an educational institution of the character of the Boys' School of the Holy Cross, involved no small outlay of money. Many of the pupils not only received their tuition without charge, but they were even furnished with text books, copy books, slates--in fact with whatever they required in pursuing their studies. The cost of these things during the term formed a considerable sum. The deficit at the end of the year was paid by the Rector, and no matter how large it was, it was always paid cheerfully.

Further, Dr. Lomax refers to the Rector as a "very careful teacher. He was progressive, and never hesitated to change his methods when he became convinced that others were better. He used the most approved text-books, some of which he had imported expressly for his school."

He was very popular with his pupils. I do not believe that there was ever a boy in the school who did not respect him, and whose good feeling he did not have.

As an associate, Dr. Tucker was just and considerate. He was always cheerful, apparently looking on the bright side. He was even-tempered to a very remarkable degree. During the five years I was with him in the school, I never saw him lose his mental equipoise even for one moment. Our relations were always of the most cordial character.

The assistant teacher retires from the school; his principal writes him:

LENOX, August 29, 1859.


In a batch of letters waiting me here, I found one from you informing me of your determination to retire from "your position in the school of the Holy Cross.

You do not tell me what are the circumstances which lead you to the determination. Whatever they may be, I regret most heartily that anything should disturb our pleasant relations and deprive me of your valuable cooperation, and would be most glad could I induce you to reconsider the matter and direct you to different decision. But I am not so selfish as to wish you to do anything which might interfere with your interests. I am anxious on the other hand to promote your welfare. Still it is a grievous thing to me to think of your leaving the school, for I know not how I can supply your place. Possibly your determination may tempt me to abandon the Boys' School. However, I do not mention this to influence your conduct. You are bound to consider yourself and future career, and not my wishes and wants.

I expect to return to Troy on Saturday, and should be happy to find there a letter containing more full information as to your plans. In the meanwhile believe me as ever,

Most affectionately yours


There was a difficulty about the finding of a suitable person to take Dr. Lomax's place, and without increase of expenditure. At any rate, the school never reopened. The enlarged attention bestowed upon the other school by the Rector gave indication of the fact that he had not changed his opinion about the importance of Church education

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