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Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, 2007


He studies best whose manhood longest keeps
The passionate thrill that in the boy's blood leaps;
Eyes that look out, unconscious of their glow,
Shy to be known, shall soonest all things know;
Into the ear that listens and is taught,
Shall come the music of God's whispered thought,
And him the beatific visions bless
Whose lips the hunger and the thirst confess.

W. R. H.

A Few Memories of

William Reed Huntington

My first recollection of my brother is of a very pretty and happy little boy, whom every one seemed to love, full of interest in all living things. He had, like all children, pets of all kinds. The first ones he had were turtles, to which he devoted a great deal of his spare time, and found them very interesting. Then came rabbits, which were most tenderly cared for. He developed very early a taste for [5/6] fishing, which he did not lose as he grew older; for even, as late as 1901, when he was in California attending the Convention, he was delighted to go, at the close of the sessions, to Catalina Island, and catch some of the famous big fish there, in company with the Rev. Dr. Manning. I remember that as a little boy the gift of a real fish basket gave him unutterable pleasure, and he used to go to the Concord River, which was not far from our house, where a friend's garden extended to the bank, fenced along the river for safety. And. there he would stand for hours, his patience seeming never exhausted. When he came home his mother would [6/7] say: "What luck, Willy? Did you catch anything?" And he would reply: "No, mother, not to-day, but I had two bites and a nibble." And he would start again the next day with renewed zeal, and perfect hope of success, in spite of his disappointment. This quality of perseverance he retained through life. He was about eight years old at this time.

In his early childhood our maternal grandmother came to live with us. She was a saintly woman and had a most gentle and loving spirit. She exercised a great influence over Willy from his earliest days, and he certainly was a child of her prayers. Her love for him [7/8] was unbounded. I cannot but feel that some of her gentleness of spirit was transmitted to him. And in her last illness, which was after William had gone away to school, she had his portrait placed at the foot of her bed, where she could see it constantly. It was brought from the studio, where it had just been finished, and this is the portrait which now hangs in the Choir House at Grace Church.

Our home lay not far from the Middlesex Mills, in the days when the factory girls were of a very good class. And as Willy stood at the gate as a little child, dressed in his pretty light frock, I have often seen them stop and say what a [8/9] pretty child he was, and ask if they might kiss him.

There were some very rough older boys who lived in the neighborhood, who used to tease him. But his mother had taught him that he must not fight under any circumstances. And one day when they were teasing him he was heard to say: "If you don't stop I shall ask my father to give you some very bitter medicine."

He was indebted for many of his sterling qualities to his father, who possessed the same trait of popularity, without self-seeking or self-consciousness, which was so prominent in his son. Dr. Elisha Huntington came to Lowell when it was a very [9/10] small town, about the year 1826. He was a young physician fresh from the Yale Medical School, and began practice at once. One of the first evidences of his unselfishness, which was one of his main characteristics, was in the very early days of his residence there. A stranger was attacked with virulent smallpox, and as there was no provision in Lowell for such a case, he placed him in a deserted house on the outskirts of the town. No one was willing to go to the sick man, in dread of the disease. Dr. Huntington at once offered his services and quarantined himself, sharing the man's solitude, and caring for him throughout his sickness.

[11] His medical services were always very welcome, and he was always ready to give to the poor and afflicted, being singularly indifferent to any compensation for his services; and by his generosity and kindness he won Saint Luke's name of "The Beloved Physician." He was also President of the Massachusetts Medical Society.

At the time of his death the whole city was in mourning.

He rendered great service to Lowell, after it became a city, by serving several terms as mayor, in spite of the encroachment upon his medical work. He gave the city the best of his powers. Whenever it was rent and disturbed by political [11/12] troubles, the people always turned to him as a last resort. He never lost his election but once, when the "Know-Nothings" got control of the city. He served as Lieutenant- Governor of Massachusetts with Governor Clifford, and was very much interested in the State Prison work. Those were the days before the Associated Charities and the new views of political economy, and the only thing brought up against him by his enemies when he was a candidate for mayor, was that he was too good to the poor. Owing to his life of charity and sacrifice, he died a poor man leaving behind him a blessed memory.

[13] Willy was very fond of horses, and occasionally a friend lent him a small pony, so small that several times, when it stopped very suddenly with the peaceful intent of eating grass by the road side, he would fall over its head without danger of injury. He never was discouraged, but always mounted again. He was very friendly with his young companions, and always showed the sweet temper which was his characteristic. Athletics were not as prominent in a boy's life in those days as they are now, but he was always interested in boys' sports, such as playing ball.

When he was about eleven years old some one gave him a fire engine, [13/14] a perfect model, of a good size, of the old tub engine of the day. It was christened "Neptune," and the motto on the standard at the side was, "Douse the glim." They organized a fire company and drilled, and enjoyed making trips to imaginary fires. The engine was painted red with gold trimmings by his sister and a young fellow artist, and the company was very proud of its machine.

A very strong trait of his as a child was an intense love of reading. At one time "The Arabian Nights" was his constant companion. Fairy tales and all imaginative stories were his delight. We did not associate a love of poetry with him [14/15] at that time, although later it became one of the great inspirations of his life. He very early developed a great interest in chemistry, and he was constantly engaged in making experiments of various kinds, and trying to manufacture things. He spent his money in buying simple apparatus for experiments. His little store of Hessian crucibles was his great pride. He had sent abroad for them.

Sometimes he had an intimate friend who was associated with him in these undertakings. They made indelible ink, which always washed out, and poor cologne which the family were obliged to buy to encourage them.

[16] Willy was considered rather small for his age, and it was thought best to try to develop his physical strength. When he was about twelve years old he was sent to a military school at Norwich, Vermont. He was in the same class with Admiral Dewey. His experiences in Norwich were decidedly rough, and he always said he saw more wickedness there in the country, than in all his life at Cambridge. But he seemed strong to resist temptation there, and came back stronger and better for his new experience of life.

I think his first essay in poetry, or rhyme one might call it, was made while he was at this school. [16/17] It was on the occasion of a military walking and camping trip, made from Norwich to Ticonderoga, and in it were chronicled the experiences of the days, which he made very amusing.

After William's return from the military school, he stayed at home under the instruction of a tutor, and also was fitted for College at a private school in Lowell. His lessons never seemed to be any trouble to him, and his life was quiet and uneventful.

In his Freshman year at Harvard a close friendship began between him and my husband, Professor Cooke, which was only strengthened by the tie which bound him [17/18] later as a brother-in-law. I have often heard him tell how in his lecture to the Freshmen he saw in one of the front seats the eager and earnest face of a young man who attracted him wonderfully; and he at once tried to find out his identity. They became immediately great friends, and continued so to the end.

Mr. Cooke was one of the first professors to take a vital interest in the students in a social way, and as he was then keeping bachelor's hall in Harvard Square, he sought to have personal intercourse with them, and in many cases was drawn into great intimacy. In the class of 1859 there were some very charming [18/19] young men, and there were six or eight of them who always took tea with him Sunday evening for two or three years. They read and discussed different subjects, and the evening always ended with prayers, which were chosen from the family prayers in the Prayer Book. They often used to speak of these delightful evenings spent together, preceded by a hearty supper of good things.

My husband entered into closer relations with William than with any other man of the class, and for several summers took him on long walking trips through Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. He also gave William his first view of the mountains [19/20] of Mt. Desert, and the following beautiful sonnets "From Green Mountain" were called forth by memories of this happy journey:



Two seas our eyes beheld, one dark, one light;
And one above the other; for a screen
Of billowy cloud lay, level-poised, between
Ocean and sky, in undulation white
As snow of Zembla. Half-way up the height
That caps Mount Desert, spell-bound by the scene,
We stood and marvelled. Had there ever been,
[20/21] Since Israel's pilgrim march, so weird a sight?
Meanwhile the sailors, beating to and fro
On shadowed waters, dreamed not of the still,
Pellucid beauty of that upper day;
Their captive eyes saw only from below,
While we, from our sheer lookout on the hill,
Scanned either level, happier-placed than they.


Brief our advantage; presently the sun,
Nearing the noon-mark, gathered all his might,
And smote those vapors till they broke in flight;
Not hastily (for panic there was none),
But with slow movement eastward, one by one,
[21/22] The cloud battalions drifted from our sight,
Till everywhere, from verge to verge, was light;
And those below saw clear, as we had done.
God shows enfranchised spirits, such as thine,
Dear friend, dear brother, who beside me stood
That morning on the mount, both sides of things:
The dim, the bright; the earthly, the divine.
Spirits in shadows see but one. Oh, would
The days were born of which the Sibyl sings!

He still indulged in his taste for fishing when he had an opportunity, [22/23] and I have often heard him tell how, on their trips through New Brunswick, they stopped to catch salmon, and hired a horse and wagon to carry the salmon from place to place, to provide something eatable, as their food was of the most primitive description and scant at that.

Mr. Cooke was in the habit, at that time, of giving experimental popular lectures in several large cities. William went as his assistant, and these trips fostered his love of science, which was always very strong. Thus he saw, under very pleasant auspices, Baltimore and Washington, and other places of interest.

[23/24] During William's preparation for college at the Lowell School, it was taken for granted that he should go to Hanover and attend Dartmouth College, as our father was a graduate of that institution, and Harvard, on account of the expense, seemed quite out of the question. Mrs. Huntington, our mother, was a woman of great force of character, and exercised a very strong influence over her son, by whom she was always dearly loved. She was a delicately organized woman and never had strong health, but her mind always rose superior to her body, and "the wakeful demon," as she called it, was never allowed to shadow the sunshine of [24/25] her nature. She seemed not only to have "songs in the night," but also visions. And she would then think over the knotty problems which sometimes confronted her in the daytime.

As the days drew near for the examinations at Dartmouth she surprised us one morning at the breakfast table by announcing that William was not going to Dartmouth, but that he was going to Harvard. There was a chorus of "What do you mean?" and "How can it be done?" She replied: "I do not know, but wait and the way will be opened." In a few days she received a letter from William's older brother Francis, who [25/26] was a young merchant in New York. He had gone to New York alone at the age of seventeen, having been obliged to give up college on account of the weakness of his eyes. He said that he was now in a position which would allow him to have the pleasure of educating William at Harvard, and he should be glad to assume all the expense of his course. So this little incident influenced the whole course of his life, as everything seemed to hinge on this change of surroundings.

His brother Frank took the most intense interest in William's college career, and at his graduation, when he was elected class poet, and made so deep an impression [26/27] on his audience, Frank's satisfaction was complete. The bond between the brothers was very strong, as is shown by the fact that William named his son for him, Francis Cleaveland.

His early days at Harvard were comparatively uneventful, but he was always in demand for a bright little speech, or for a few verses at a dinner, and had that gift of quick repartee which always distinguished him. His wit was at all times pure, and some of his college songs were quite irresistible. The following songs appeared in the "Harvard Magazine "for July, 1858, written to commemorate the victory, in the 1858 Fourth of July regatta, [27/28] of the "Fops" of Harvard over the "Fort Hill Boy" crew. The first was supposed to have been sung before, and the second after the race.


(Air, Paddy O'Rafferty)

Arrah, me Patsy! jist look at the College boat:
Niver afore did ye see so much knowledge float.
Shure it's a shame that their arms is n't bigger now,
For it is muscle, not brains, that will figure now.

O ye b'ys, ye fops, ye lady pets,
Twinty to wan, and our word that we pay the bets.

[29] Only step here and obsarve the dhroll make of her.
Shavin's and wire is the notion ye take of her.
Round as a pratie, and sharp as a pick, is she,
But niver a match in a race for the Mickies she.

O ye b'ys, ye fops, ye lady pets,
Twinty to wan, and our word that we pay the bets.

Twig the spoon oars what they pull her, me jewel, with!
Why don't they keep them to ate their oat gruel with?
Wooden spoons shure is no sign of good luck at all;
Silver we'll have, when the prize we have took it all.

[30] Chorus
O ye b'ys, ye fops, ye lady pets,
Twinty to wan, and our word that we pay the bets.


(Air, Lillibullero)

Look! look! will ye, Mike,
Ye ne'er saw the like:
These childer have waxed us through and through.
The studints is here,
But, bad 'cess! it is clear
We'll wait awhile now for the Irish crew.

Har-r-vard! Har-r-vard! O ye spalpeens!
Have n't ye scattered my 'wages like smoke?
[31] I can't pay a quarter
The bets that I oughter.
Divil fly off wid yer wondherful stroke.

Jist hark to the yells
Of thim Beacon Street swells,
And see, over yonder, the cambric wave;
While Micky there stands,
A-wringin' his hands,
And Biddy is wipin' her eyes on her slave.

Har-r-vard! Har-r-vard! O ye spalpeens!
Have n't ye scattered my wages like smoke?
I can't pay a quarter
The bets that I oughter
Divil fly off wid yer wondherful stroke.

[32] Let's scuttle our boats:
Nary one of them floats
But looks kind o' shamed about the bows;
And oh! may the crews
In future refuse
To meddle with race boats, and stick to their scows.

Har-r-vard! Har-r-vard! O ye spalpeens!
Have n't ye scattered my wages like smoke?
I can't pay a quarter
The bets that I oughter.
Divil fly off wid yer wondherful stroke.

"The Harvard Monthly," in which he was interested as a contributor and part editor, we considered the most brilliant magazine [32/33] that had ever been issued. And indeed some of the contributions were exceedingly creditable, and are well worth reading at this late date.

He was always a faithful attendant at Christ Church, Cambridge, and as it has been sometimes stated that he was a Unitarian while he was in college, it may be well to make a plain statement of fact. I think it was in his sophomore year that the Rector of Christ Church was obliged to leave on account of his health, and the pulpit was filled by a man who had no gift of interesting the young; while, at the College Chapel, the Rev. F. D. Huntington was interesting the students [33/34] and others with his inspiring preaching. And although the Unitarian congregation did not realize it, he was really preaching orthodox sermons. After hearing him several times William felt that he must have the inspiration that Dr. Huntington gave, but was quite unwilling to leave his own Church in which he had been brought up. He went, as he often did, to his mother for her counsel and advice, and after listening to his longings and desires, she counseled him with the breadth she always showed, and advised him to go where he could get what would most upbuild his character and satisfy his spiritual longings.

[35] William did not consider that it meant renouncing in any way his Church affiliations after he should have left college. The five young men with whom he had been associated in Mr. Cooke's Sunday evening readings wanted to join the College Chapel. This was an almost unheard-of thing for a student to do, and one may be sure that Dr. Huntington was intensely interested in this movement, and made of their coming a most solemn occasion. The Covenant to which they subscribed was not Unitarian in its nature.

It was about this time that Dr. F. D. Huntington made his public avowal of his change of faith, and [35/36] was confirmed at Christ Church in Cambridge, with several members of his family.

William was very much exercised as to what occupation he should enter on graduation. His mind was not at first inclined to enter the Church, as he loved science very dearly, and more so as time went on. But Mr. Cooke, devoted as he was to science, put all his influence on the side of the Church. And after the death of William's mother, which occurred soon after his graduation, William's mind never wavered from the idea of devoting himself to a religious life.

This idea is best expressed by his [36/37] lines, "Before Ordination," published later:

Thou callest, Lord, I hear Thy voice
And so in meekness come.
I falter, but not mine the choice.
Thou callest. I am dumb.

I only listen. I am least
Of all, and yet I know
Thou callest me to be Thy priest.
I argue not. I go.

All through the past Thy hand hath led;
Grant me this day to feel
That hand in blessing on my head,
As at Thy feet I kneel.

The years await me. What they hold
Thou knowest, Lord, not I.
On every side the cloud-banks fold
The edges of my sky.

[38] But still within my ears there rings
One voice and only one,--
All courage to my heart it brings,--
Thy will, my God, be done.

He determined to begin his studies for the ministry as soon as possible.

I thank my God upon every
of you

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