Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Walking Sticks

Jesse Halsey c1933
If the strong cane support thy walking hand
Chairmen no longer shall thy wall command
Ev’n sturdy carmen shall thy nod obey,
And rattling coaches stop to make thee way;
This shall direct thy cautious tread aright,
Though not one glaring lamp enliven night.
Let beaux their canes with amber tipt produce;
Be theirs for empty show, but thine for use.
Thus wrote John Gay in his “Trivia,” Gay, the friend of Voltaire of Addison and Swift. The London of Queen Anne is made real by his descriptions of his walking trips on which he always carried his cane. Not only he and his contemporaries—can you imagine Dr. Johnson without his stick?—but from the very dawn of history until the present time, men have used their walking sticks, in one form or another. It is man’s oldest friend and support. Its use is universal.

[On his staff man has leaned from time immemorial. It is the implement of his first cultural advance, the symbol of his superiority to the brute and an accoutrement of his sartorial adventures. It appears in the riddle of the Sphinx is the companion of man’s pilgrimage through the centuries and the emblem of self-imposed controls in government. It preceded the sword as man’s most primitive weapon, modified in a rod or scepter; a symbol of authority.]

Satan strides across the awful abyss with his great pine-tree staff, and the latest Literary Guild selection makes its heroine Madam Comyn vigorous and impressive by her cane.  From man’s lost paradise it must have come—one of the angels of Genesis appears with his staff, and it will be in vogue after Pageant is forgotten. Both Milton and Miss Lancaster are true to life, for both men and gods, alike, need the support of staves.

The Greek Gods had their sticks: Hephastios because he was lame; Hermes because he was swift; Juno because she was powerful and fecund. To no type is the staff inappropriate. Indeed, Pallas Athene in her wisdom leans upon the staff of her spear. Homer’s heroes, chief of whom is Agamemnon, carry staves as a badge of office and the patriarch Jacob worships, “leaning upon the top of his staff,” and so blesses his grandchildren.

Can you picture Elijah, even as he flees the wrath of Jezebel, without his staff? Elisha sends his staff by Gehezhi, as a projection of himself to lay upon the face of the dead boy. Could Samuel adequately judge Israel without his staff? Or the New England parson of our boyhood makes his pastoral rounds without his gold headed cane? Chaucer sends his “poor parson of the towne” into the country through the storm on an errand of mercy’ “and in his hand a staff . . . this noble ensample to his sheep he gaff that first he wroughte and afterward he taughte.”

Matthew and Luke say that Jesus sent out his Twelve Disciples on their first missionary tour without money or scrip or bread or staves, but John Mark, who was the travelling companion of St. Peter, records that the Master “commanded them that they should take nothing for their journey save a staff only.” This is a truer picture one must conclude; Jesus would surely allow them the comfort of their staves, for He who in the carpenter’s shop had fabricated such easing implements as yokes would know the value of a walking stick.

St. Peter, the legends say, sent his staff to Eucherius, the first bishop of Treves. After that Peter walked without a stick; so, since the time of Gregory VII—the same was Hildebrand—the Bishop of Rome has never carried a crosier. Having surrendered the pastoral stick, he takes, however, as his emblem, two swords!

On an old crosier preserved in Amiens these words are engraved: “Onus non honor.” But all had not so modest an inscription. The old abbots were invested with authority in these words: “Receive the stick of the pastoral ministry” and therewith received the crosier. They had great power and unlike the Bishops could also wield the sword. A twelfth century bishop, one Christian of Mayence who could not for conscience’s sake use a sword, had no scruples, however, about fighting with other weapons and with immense crosier killed nine men in one battle! A militant Christian this.

When a bishop walked in procession, his crosier’s crook faced outward, but the abbot must face in his when he left the borders of his monastic lands. In spite of all abuses of their power in Feudal times, ecclesiastics represented justice and protection for the poor; thus in the Middle Age a common saying among the people was, “It is better to live under the crosier than under the Feudal stick.”

In the East, the pastoral stick is straight, instead of bent. The Greek Patriarchs have crosiers crowned with T-shaped crosses. Sometimes in the West, serpents, emblematic of pastoral sagacity, surmounted the stick! Usually, however, the crosier is shaped after the fashion of the pontifical stick of the Roman augurs which they held in their hands while they gave their oracles. The dean of the cardinals carries a golden stick called the ferula apolistica, as a mark of dignity. In event of the death of the Holy Father this official becomes Pope ad interim.

Kings, too, have their sticks in the form of scepters. “For the stick is king of the world,” says an ancient proverb. The shepherd’s crook, his rod and staff, became the badge of office of the tribal chief. Later, armed with an iron point it became the primitive scepter. The office of king in those days fell to some mighty man of valour, head and shoulders taller than others in his army; his scepter was shod with iron and wielded by a mighty hand. Goliath and his brothers carried spears of this sort— “like a weaver’s beam,” as the saying goes.

The king’s scepter, that is to say his lance, never left his side. David, the outlaw, quietly glides into the camp of King Saul at night and steals the scepter—lance and with the sunrise sends his taunts echoing across the valley toward Abner and the recreant bodyguard. At length, gold, silver, and other embellishments replaced the iron of the spear just as moral force replaced physical force in government. The lofty name of scepter was first used in Rome by Cicero. Long before had “it ceased to be an arm, it had become an emblem.”

The Roman consuls carried scepters under the name of Scipio. The scepters were wands of ivory. The senators also carried one of a similar form. A legate had reached Egypt; his life was threatened by a mob. Wrapping his toga close, with his stick he described a circle in the sand around his person, “This is Roman soil,” and there he stood unharmed, much as others since have invoked the protection of the flag.

When the Gauls under Brennus entered Rome they found the senators and consuls seated in the curule chairs, each one holding his wand in his hand. At the sight the barbarians paused. One dared to touch the beard of the senator Papirus, who struck him with his wand and wounded him. It was the signal for a general massacre. “Never was the scepter so majestic as then,” says the French historian. Scepters of Kings have become unfashionable, but still Mussolini has his lictors go before him and in Italy today one sees the sticks—the faces—everywhere. And what of Hitler? What shall be his symbol?

“The husbandman, with a scepter in his hands, sits among the furrows without speaking,” says Homer, and Millet in his “Angelus” has the sunlight fall upon the implements of tillage on which his peasants lean as praying at eventide.

[Handwritten note on manuscript to JH from writing instructor: "A wealth of material, but paradoxically that is its fault! The piece is too much of a catalogue, with little or no comment to hold it together and give it unity. I should say that it contains the material for a good essay. Notice Lamb’s essay on ears and see how he lists too—but with different emphasis."]


By Jesse Halsey

My great great grandfather, for whom I am named, was a Revolutionary soldier and officer. When he heard of the Battle of Lexington he and his brother took the king bolt out of the one horse farm wagon, rigged a seat on the two front wheels, and drove an old horse ten miles from his home to Sag Harbor. Here, with other men, they rowed in a whale boat across Long Island Sound to New London, walked to Boston, arriving in time for the Battle of Bunker Hill.

Off and on for the eight years of the war, he was with the army, once at least on Washington’s staff. My grandfather, who heard his grandfather repeat the wartime stories in turn told them to my father and to his own grandchildren, who have rehearsed them to me time and again. My children have heard them from me (ad nauseam, they used to think). But we have had the advantage of the other generations of being able, with our automobile, to visit most of the scenes of grandfather’s activity during the Revolution.

Two miles from where he was born was where we were so fortunate as to spend the summer down on the Atlantic seaboard. The home site is now a cornfield. When I was a boy some of the foundation of the old house and the apple trees were standing. Not a mile away in the village cemetery rest his mortal remains. Some years ago the government furnished an appropriate tombstone and seventy of his descendents placed a similar marble slab at his wife’s grave.

My family, there are seven of us, has trekked to many Revolutionary sites, with an especial interest to those connected with grandfather. We have stood on Bunker Hill, crossed the river and climbed the belfry tower of the old North church, visited the public square in Cambridge, where Washington took command (grandfather was present). We have crossed Long Island Sound more than once, but not in a whale boat. Opposite New London stands Groton monument where grandfather’s brother, Captain Henry, was killed when Benedict Arnold, the traitor, burned the town. That hot June day in 1779, when Washington attached Clinton’s retreating army, grandfather was captain on the general staff. He heard Washington, with an oath, order Charles Lee, another traitor, off the field. He was wounded in the engagement and likely taken to the old Tennant church, which was used as a hospital. One wonders if he drank from Molly Pitcher’s well. He carried the effects of his wound to his death and in his old age used a crutch.

He had, so the story goes, an ardent Tory for a neighbor. In a violent discussion that developed one day, the neighbor maintained that never in America could woolen goods be made the equal of the British products. Grandfather maintained that the American output was equal to the British. A violent altercation developed and the Tory called the patriot a liar, and the patriot, with his crutch, knocked the Tory down and sat astride him until noon, when his son came home from the field and encouraged his father to desist (decamp). He lived to a good old age. He outlived his children, but, fortunately, not his grandchildren, and his grandson, who was my grandfather, told these tales to his grandchildren.

The old days of horse and buggy, of sandy roads and crooked lanes, are gone in many parts of the country. Cars fly through with some terminus in view likely, but their occupants seeing little along the way. The highways are numbered and in most places conspicuously marked and only when a detour sign confronts one in the middle of the road and cannot be disregarded does one take a back road.

Yet, on those less frequented ways are some of the most interesting and beautiful spots that are to be found. They escape the eye of the average tourist. I, for one, miss the Blue Book of a decade ago that gave back roads, the names of lakes and brooks and best of all the historic footnotes that made the journey interesting.

En route to French Lick for the cure, you pass Salem, Indiana. Not one in a thousand knows that here John Hay was born. Oh for an intelligent, informed, and historically minded cartographer! Seeing the Green Mountains and enjoying is in no way hindered as one passes through Brandon to find there a monument to Stephen A Douglas who was born there in the village. Or to turn aside at Bennington and climb the hill to the old town and pay one’s respect to the spirits of the “boys who there resisted Bourgoin’s advance” memorialized in the shaft that rises on the hill. In the same old village one is interested to find that William Lloyd Garrison edited his first abolition sheet. It is off the main highway a little that one finds the Saratoga battle monument near Schuylerville, or the monument to Benedict Arnold’s boot and wounded leg. One must leave the express highway by two miles to sight the Princeton battlefield and house where General Mercer died. A circuit of the Wilderness battlefield is made by using several less frequented back roads. To find Monticello, one leaves the main highway by four miles and lives for a brief hour with Jefferson in the country. That section of the main concreted highway down east where I grew up occasionally affords a glimpse of the ocean and the dunes. To those who know the back roads, pond and bay and sandy strips open in quick succession and the booming surf is ever in one’s ears. But the red lines on the map give no hint of such access.

On the back roads through the Adirondacks one finds the sleeping place of John Brown’s body. Off the trunkline near Kinderhook is hidden the grave of Martin Van Buren and a mile or so away, his old home Lindenwall. Nearby is the site of Ichabod Crane’s schoolhouse and the home of Katrina Van Tassel. One would never guess it as he flies through on Highway No. 9.


By Jesse Halsey c1927

“It has never quarreled a minister away.” So says Lyman Beecher of his loved church in Easthampton, Long Island, where he preached for a dozen years. It was his first pastorate, and, with all the fame that later came to him, it was his first love. The building in which he preached was torn down sixty years ago, but the old weathervane, dated 1782, that crowned the spire, is still preserved. Likewise, the old pulpit, used by Beecher for eleven years, and before that by his illustrious predecessor, Dr. Buell, for fifty-two years, can be seen in the rooms of the Historical Society in Clinton Academy in New York State. Here, too, is the communion table that stood before the high pulpit.

Beecher, while a student in Yale, had come profoundly under the influence of Timothy Dwight, the president, who loved him as a son. He came to Easthampton without a unanimous call, but soon won the confidence of everyone. The church, which was then one hundred and fifty years old, had had only three pastors. The first minister had received forty-five pounds a year, free taxes, his grain ground first at the mill on Monday mornings, and one quarter of the whale stranded on the beach. Beecher’s pay was three hundred dollars a year and his firewood. This was later increased to four hundred. He had no share in the whales, which was a lucrative industry on the east end of Long Island in those days, but several times he went off in the whaleboats for the chase.

The committee who selected Beecher wanted to get a man who could “break the heads of the infidels.” French skepticism was rampant in the village. He sailed in a sloop from New London with the little he had to carry “packed in a little white hair trunk which I brought with me on the pommel of my saddle.” His horse, which he brought with him, fell overboard during the voyage, but was rescued.

Easthampton has a broad Main Street fringed with elms. How large they were in his day, I cannot say, but the church stood at the head of the little pond that divided the village street. Adjoining it and fringing the pond, is the village cemetery. Just across the road is one of the several windmills that dot the landscape.

During his first winter a revival developed in which eighty were converted. He was an indefatigable worker, and within three yeas broke down nervously. He nursed himself back to health by fishing and horseback riding.

The churches, in those days, were supported by a general tax, as public schools are today. One man refused to pay his tax until the minister resumed his duties. His heifer was seized and sold by the sheriff.

Mrs. Beecher introduced the first carpet into the village. She spun the cotton brought from New London and had it woven. The carpet was then nailed down on the garret floor and she proceeded to paint it with an elaborate floral design, with colors of her own mixing. Deacon Tallmadge stopped at the parlor door when the new carpet was laid—“Can’t come in ‘tho’t steppin’ on it.”

Mrs. Beecher kept a school, with five young girls as boarders, besides her day pupils. From this pulpit Beecher denounced dueling. After studying the subject for six months, he wrote a sermon, preached from his pulpit, and then delivered before the Synod. This was shortly after Aaron Burr had shot Alexander Hamilton. “Duelling is a great national sin. The whole land is defiled with blood.” Beecher, then an obscure young man of thirty, by force of argument, forced a resolution condemning dueling from the Synod, which was far from sympathetic at the outside. He said that Synod was “the center of old-fogyism,” but he mowed it down and carried the vote of the house. The sermon was published and over forty thousand copies were distributed. This gave him a wide reputation. It started a serious effort “that affected the whole northern mind, at least, and in Jackson’s time it came up in Congress and a law passed disenfranchising a duelist.”

Settled nigh onto three hundred years ago, here is a bit of New York’s New England. The oldest school of academic creed is on its village street. The village common divides the main highway. Between its lateral branches is the town pond and the village cemetery. In other days the village church stood hardby. Two Dutch windmills flank it on the east and the “Home Sweet Home” of John Howard Payne’s boyhood looks south across the cemetery toward the ocean. This is New England at its best. Great over-reaching elms, all of them surely one hundred years in growth, arch the village street, which is twice the width of most main streets. Picket fences and old houses still have place. Toward the beach rail fences predominate, and carefully clipped hedges. The stretch of dunes east and west are overgrown with beach grass and bayberry and sumac.

A short three hours from New York are many cottagers. It stays unspoiled. Its Guild Hall and its artist colony fit into the old setting and, as in few places, the wholesome old traditions are maintained. To be sure, at one end of the village street are the places of business, some cheap and some pretentious, chain stores with their gaudy fronts, a movie house and the like; but these are in the minimum. At the north end of the village street is another windmill and a cemetery of a later date. Eliminate a quarter of a mile of necessary business and you have the atmosphere and the outlook of one hundred or more years ago. Off-shore whaling has disappeared. Whales seldom come and, when they do, they are not worth enough to excite the chase. But the memories of whaling are here and some of the old salts still live and will tell you tales of other days.

from Dr. Morris Fishbein | essay on old wives’ tales

By Jesse Halsey
Dr. Morris Fishbein, the editor of the “Journal of American Medical Association,” and of “Hygeia,” the popular health magazine, says, “I have seen Eugene Debs dying in a naturopathic sanatorium which practiced the kind of medicine that was popular in the fourteenth century; I have listened for an hour to Upton Sinclair as he expounded his conceptions of electronic medicine, life and health; I have read how the faithful resort to Lourdes, St. Anne de Beupre, and the tabernacle of Aimee McPherson; I have seen thousands struggling for the ministrations of Emile Coue; I have seen Jewish rabbis repeat rituals which were essentially the exorcism of spirits; I have poured over the pages of “Physical Culture,” published by Barnarr Macfadden; I have watched colored Holy Rollers and heard the lectures of Dowie and Voliva; I have read thousands of letters from thousands of Americans concerning their ailments; I have seen the collection of cards cross indexing more than a hundred thousand nostrums, quacks and frauds in the headquarters of the American Medical Association; I listen on the radio to the services of the First Church of Christ, Scientist; I have read the textbooks of chiropractic, the autobiography of Andrew Still, founder of Osteopathy, Gilbert Seldes’ “The Stammering Century,” and Dakin’s “Life of Mary Baker Eddy.” As a result of all this I am not at all convinced that the reasoning powers and knowledge of the average man have improved tremendously as a result of the great discoveries made by modern medical science. His life has been made safer; his life expectancy has been raised from some thirty years at birth to some sixty years; and this has been done for him, not through his own volition, but because here and there leaders of men have arisen to work for man in spite of the invariable distrust that the average man has for expert knowledge.

Some people think that fish is a brain food and that a lot of mackerel in the diet will convert a moron into an Einstein.

Some people think it is dangerous to sleep in the moonlight; hence the word “luny.” In the mythology of the Egyptians, the moon was mistress of the brain, the sun, lord of the forehead; and to various constellations were assigned the tissues which they were supposed to govern. All this is without scientific substantiation. The causes of various forms of insanity vary from infection by germs of one type or another, to hereditary influences and malformation of the brain structure.

Some people believe that rubbing one eye will help to get a cinder out of the other eye. After all, that is better than rubbing the eye with the cinder.

The fact that there is rust on a nail with which one is scratched, will not particularly influence the wound, since this rust is usually merely oxidized iron, a remedy that is not infrequently taken internally to considerable advantage. Germs adhere both to rusty and to clean nails and the germ most usually found there is that of tetanus or lockjaw. There is no harm particularly attaching to the rusty nail.

Lots of people think whiskey will cure snake bite—but where can you find a good snake? The belief that drinking two quarts of whiskey will cure snake bite is probably symbolic magic, based on the idea that the whiskey will produce the vision of snakes and that the vision will remove the effects of the bite.

Some people believe that warts can be removed by tying knots in a string and burying the string at a cross-roads in the moonlight. In Cheshire, warts are rubbed with a piece of bacon and the bacon is then put under the bark of an ash tree. The villagers believe that the warts will appear as knobs on the tree.

There is an old story about an orator who was gesturing unnecessarily. Someone asked Senator Reed for an explanation of this phenomenon, and he replied that the orator’s mother had been scared by a windmill.

And remember, never eat an oyster in a month without an "r" in it.

If you drink from a garden hose you may get a snake in your interior. Every so often the newspapers tell about the girl who had one. Here is the simplest form of symbolic magic. A garden hose looks like a snake.

Snake oil is reputed to have all sorts of virtues for the cure of rheumatism.

If you break out with pimples and boils, it is just the meanness coming out.

Many people still believe that cutting the baby’s hair will weaken it—that is the baby.

Some people believe that if one’s left ear burns it is the sign that someone is saying mean things about one, and that if the right ear burns, something good is being said.

There is a common notion that bear’s grease rubbed on the scalp will prevent baldness. Experts say that, in most instances, baldness is idiopathic—which means that nobody knows the reason for it. There are all sorts of superstitions about the hair, and about every other matter in which scientific explanation is lacking. Some people believe that the hair is full of sap and that the ends must be sealed by singing or the sap will run out. The hairs has no more sap than a walking stick. In most instances baldness is hereditary and because of the constitutional condition the hair is bound to fall out.

In ancient Egypt, the medicine man cured baldness by a grease that was made from the fat of six different animals; the lion, hippopotamus, crocodile, cat, snake, and ibex. The idea was to get the strength and sagacity of the animals at the same time that the grease was supplied. In early American days, bear’s grease was used for the same purpose.

The folks in many states assert that a cat left alone with a baby will kill the infant by sucking its breath. In 1791, a jury at the coroner’s inquest in England rendered a verdict tot the effect that a child near Plymouth had met death in this manner. The myth is almost universal.

The Egyptians had a cat-headed goddess. The Phoenicians and Romans also had the moon goddesses who were associated with the cat. The cat is always associated with the moon because it is more active after sunset and because the pupils . . .

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

On Dr. Charles Parkhurst

Jesse Halsey | 1933 

The death of Dr. Charles Parkhurst brings back some happy recollections of hours spent with him during successive summer on Lake Placid some ten years ago. He was straight as an arrow, ‘though eighty years old, vigorous in mind, incisive in his judgments, and clear-cut in his speech. This would apply to his sermons as well as to his conversation. The few sermons that are in print open with short periodic sentences and always remind me of a rapid-fire gun.

I was a young minister visiting in the mountains. Dr. Parkhurst had a cottage a half a mile away. One day I screed up courage and made a call. He was graciousness itself, inviting me back repeatedly. He talked and I listened. Often we walked out through the woods. His wife was an invalid and he would not leave the house for any great length of time. But, along the road east of Mirror Lake, or climbing Cobble Hill (he had been up the mountain) he told me interesting things, a few of which come to mind.

About the time he left his little church in Lenox, Mass., somewhere around 1880, his deacons had told him that it would be necessary to reduce his salary by two hundred dollars. I don’t remember the exact amount, but it was less than fifteen hundred and they felt they could raise only twelve. He told them he would give his decision within a fortnight. In the meantime, the call came to the Madison Square Church, in New York, with a salary of nearly ten thousand!

When the deacons heard this they came ‘round, offering not only to maintain their present standard but to increase it by two hundred dollars.

He had, I remember a great respect and affection for Dr. John Hall, who had, he felt, made possible his entrance to the New York Presbytery from the Congregational Church. Young Parkhurst, having confessed to the Presbytery that he knew very little about Presbyterian polity, immediately some rushed to the conclusion that he knew little about Presbyterian doctrine, and started to examine him. Dr. Hall soon arrested the examination and Dr. Parkhurst was very grateful.

He said that all his early sermons were logical and syllogistic, but that somehow the conclusion halted—he had few conversions. He had learned, after fifty years, he said, that a sermon ought to be made up in about equal parts of Bible and everyday life. While he wrote and used the manuscript, he felt that a more direct method was advisable, quoting Dr. Storrs as saying: “Every horse must take its own pace.” He confessed that his early sermons were little more than lectures on the beauty of the Berkshires and the glory of the constellations. Anyone who heard his fearless denunciation of evil in high places, in later years, realized how he grew in grace and wisdom.

He said to me one day, “A young minister, who keeps one eye on the church he is in, and one on the church that he would like to be in, is hardly fitted to be in either.”

When he made his attack on municipal corruption, he did it on common knowledge and hearsay. Dana, in The Sun, and the district attorney, “called his bluff,” as he expressed it, and he was forced to substantiate his statement with legal evidence.

For a month, with the aid of a detective and a trusted friend, he collected his evidence, visiting all sorts of places.

One Sunday morning, he came into the pulpit, replaced the Bible with his numerous affidavits and started a movement that lead to the “Lexow Investigation” and to the defeat of Tammany Hall.

Those who had the privilege of knowing Dr. Parkhurst feel that Lincoln Steffens, in his autobiography, does scant justice to the character and motives of a very great man.

Map of the East End

Jesse Halsey | c1934
Jesse Halsey 

The East Riding of Yorkshire in the olden days, it still retains a flavor not found on the west end of the Island where Dutch influence predominated then, and where the Big City reaches out now. The atmosphere changes when one nears the Shinnecock canal. It is, for one thing, always cooler out there; and for another, here one comes to the New England part of Long Island.

Although the modern cottager has come in numbers and with affluence, these “Yorkers,” as the native used to call them, have not changed the scene essentially as many of the summer homes follow the old lines of the colonial or farm house type though there are notable exceptions in [Mr. Atterbury’s] shingled houses that hug the dunes and in an occasional Italian villa or other importation.

Cement has been used on the main highways, but one misses the real beauty of the countryside if he follows these, after he reaches “The East End.” In the last twenty years the local road-masters have developed a road of loam, sand, and oil, which, smoothly honed after each rain, make a perfect highway much more resilient and easy riding than cement or macadam.

Southampton and East Hampton towns are threaded with such roads, almost unknown to the motorist, who goes flying through on the numbered state highway, and misses the innumerable ponds and bays, almost forgetting the ocean itself, until he reaches Nappeague, that long narrow Cape-Cod-like-sand-dune-stretch leading to Montauk. Aside from this one piece of concrete, it is pleasanter to keep to the dirt roads and to spend a little time seeking the natural beauty of the Island’s southeastern fluke.

For like a great leviathan, Long Island throws itself out into the ocean, paralleling the Connecticut shore; with its head safely anchored to Manhattan by the bridges, bathed by the Sound on the starboard, and the Atlantic on the port side, its caudal-fins stick out to sea. One is called Orient, the other Montauk Point.

Historically, this is interesting country. Southampton was founded in June of 1640 and is the oldest English settlement in New York state. Half a dozen “undertakers,” as they were called, organized in Lynn and sailed for western Long Island where they were driven off by the Dutch and so, finally, landed in an estuary of Peconic Bay that they named the North Sea. Four miles further south on the ocean they made their permanent settlement. Several old houses remain from that general period and are worthy of a visit.

The summer colony that has become famous is, naturally, off the main road. First Neck, Cooper’s Neck, or Halsey’s Neck; each has its “lane”; Great Plains and Ox Pasture have theirs also. It will pay one to follow them, driving slowly.

East Hampton is the most perfect New England village outside New England and more perfect than many in New England. Its wide village street with a Common and duck pond, its cemetery, dividing the main street, and the gorgeous elms, make it a perfect setting for “Home Sweet Home,” the boyhood home of John Howard Payne, which faces The Green. “Maidstone” was the old name brought from England. It seems a pity that it was ever changed. This is possibly true of Southampton also, as the old communion cups of the Southampton Church (now loaned to the Metropolitan Museum) spell the name “Sought Hampton”—the Hampton within the sound, or “soughing,” of the sea.

Both Bridge Hampton and Sag Harbor have striking examples of colonial churches with white spires. The Sag Harbor church tower dominates the landscape (or seascape) for miles, and was built in the palmy days of the whaling industry when “The Harbor” rivaled New Bedford and Nantucket. The wharves are deserted now, where once the old whalers lay awaiting their turn to discharge their smelly cargoes of oil. Numerous house in this village have lovely doorways, and there are gardens with box-wood hedges.

Use “Further Lane” or “Hither Lane,” by all means, as you go on from East Hampton. Pass south of Amagansett and take the beach road toward Montauk, then (for once) use the concrete across the Neappeague Beach—all else is white sand. When on Montauk, roam by the side roads and cross roads from bay to ocean. There are several hills where ocean and sound can be seen at once, and in clear weather, the Connecticut shore and Block Island are visible. Visit the fishing dock at Fort Pond (near the station) and plan to spend the late afternoon at the Point driving back into the sunset along the ridge road, with the surf and ocean stretching away on your left.

Another time take the “back road” to Springs from East Hampton and come out at “Fireplace,” opposite Gardiner’s Island where Captain Kidd buried his treasure and where the heirs of old Lyon Gardiner still hold the island in entailed succession.

Six or eight old windmills of Dutch design still stand in this territory. Two of them occasionally can be seen revolving, under sail though no longer actually grinding grist.

Before the days of speed, each hamlet had its name, and though the sign boards no longer indicate anything except the larger villages it will pay to slow down and with a local map visit such a spot as Canoe Place where the Indians portaged their canoes from the South to the North Bay. You will see Quogue on the road map, but not Quiogue; Hampton Bays but neither Good Ground, nor Ram Pasture. You will, likely, brave one sand road and visit the Shinnecock Indian Reservation and there pick up a scrub or a basket. Ponquoque Bridge will take you across Shinnecock Bay to the ocean road, which you can follow—with several short breaks (as indicated on the map) all the way to Montauk.

The cement “slab” is all right for speed. The back lanes, dustless and smooth, are much more interesting and less frequented. This is a leisurely country; explore a bit. No roads are long—they can’t be: sooner or later they lead to water; this bay or that pond—Tiana, Mecox, Georgica, Peconic, or whatnot. And they seem indiscriminately mixed; fresh water lakes within a stone’s throw of the ocean, alternating with tidal estuaries.

Cold Spring, Seabonac, Towd, Wickapogue, Littleworth, Hay Ground, Scuttle Hole are as interesting as the villages, if you can find a guide who knows the local lore and the hidden spots of beauty in the woods. An inquiry addressed to the Colonial Society in Southampton or the Historical Society in East Hampton, should bring a response that would put the antiquarian motorist in touch with a local historian who can lead to genealogical data, or local legends, or authentic history. James Truslow Adams, then a Wall Street broker, began his career as a historian, in a cemetery near Wainscott, studying epitaphs!

British soldiers were stationed in these parts during the Revolution. The fireplace where their General’s mess was prepared still stands in the Herrick House in the North End of Southampton. Near Pudding Hill, British raiders were driven off by a steaming teakettle in the hands of a patriot housewife. A local doctor routed the red coats from Hay Ground with a small pox scare. Old Pomp, a salve, dispatched horses of the enemy, with ground glass placed in their feed.

The oldest house was built by Thomas Halsey in 1688, in the South End of Southampton. The present owner, over zealously, has placed 1628 over the door. (He is a “Yorker” not a native).

In Littleworth, Foster’s Museum deserves a visit—an old barn filled with whaling and other relics. The library at East Hampton contains the priceless Pennypacker collection of books and papers relating to all Long Island subjects. In Southampton and East Hampton there are worthy art museums. Nature’s best contribution is found on the “wood roads” and back lanes.

Good hotels abound, but unfortunately, few farmhouses cater to the tourists. Parks, however, at Montauk provide camping accommodations and cooking places. What could be more fitting than to visit the Montauk docks, buying some live lobsters from the fishermen and then taking them to one of the parks on the Atlantic, and boiling them in sea water? This requires only a good sized kettle. To the more ambitious camp-cook, there is always fish available—“blues” from the surf or weakfish from the bays. (Likely the quickest way to get them is to visit Captain Tithill’s at Fort Pond.)

For the twin eight or the old four, alike, the East End offers its back roads and hidden beauties. The four-ply cement to Jericho or the Merrick Road certainly (25 or 27), but dirt roads after crossing Shinnecock Canal! They will lead through Millstone Brook where the trees have never been cut off; out to the Scallop Pond or around Big Fresh, called Nippaug by the Indians. Minnesunk Lake, or Little Fresh, Conscience Point, where the first settlers landed, Tuckahoe, Squaw Hill, Towd Point, and Holmes Hill—these and dozens of other places are found along the dirt roads.

Jesse Halsey | fragments


Stately and tall they grew that first sweet summer. They were late, purposely late; planted in the deep shadow of the north side of the stone wall that separated the front yard from the garden. Then they were breeders---the latest and the tallest obtainable. Early cottage, later Darwins—all had gone; but these persisted into June, nodding in the cool shadow of the grey stone masonry, their gold accentuated by the greyness.

Half a dozen varieties were there—all yellow save some delicate white [plumeria] albas that mingled with the back row.

Thanksgiving morning, they had planted them.


In to the florists for the third time that week went Johannen. Sick people were numerous. This and that hospital address he looked up. Finally, he wrote a card to M. Hestern—“what was that number 28? 31-yes. 238i. Backlots Pl.” He knew it by heart, that steep hill, couldn’t keep a quiet engine going up, all the neighbors could hear. This florist was on the other side of the village—he wouldn’t guess. He paid his money, wrote the card, went out the back door.

In by the front came elder Green; looked over the flowers, sweet peas—nay daffodils, he didn’t like yellow. The Widdow Hestern did, he didn’t cause she did. He looked around, walked to the desk, paid his five dollars, and saw—the Rev. Johannen card when the florist was waiting on another customer. He peered in the envelope, yes Rev. Johannen. “In remembering May Day 27.” “’27?” Green’s mind went back. He hurried home to his diary. Yes, an X was there. He was sure Reverend Johannen had been there that day when Widdow Hestern had turned him down.


Jesse Halsey
Cincinnati c1932
Twenty years very soon in one pastorate, my only charge. Seeking to determine a modus operandi for the next decade. In spite of the action of most churches as they choose young ministers, believing that the next decade should be the most useful of life—I am just fifty—I have tried to put down in black and white just where my major interests lie.

Some of them, unconsciously likely, are indicated by the boards and committees on which one serves. First, not foremost, I am an erstwhile Rotarian (and I, on occasion, read Mencken and his ilk, often jealous I fear they are so smart). It was discipline; to sit between two strangers, a Jew and a Catholic, and with a sign “Clergyman-Protestant” plastered over one’s front, to overcome the prejudice and make a meal time conversation of mutual interests. Good discipline I say and with “Billy” Phelps my membership in the church and in the Rotary while surprising to my friends, never elicits my excuses.

The Maternal Health Centre met yesterday. I should have been there—and wasn’t, an emergency hospital call kept me away. A part of the maternal health work is a birth control clinic. What possible interest has a protestant minister in this? Partly, I confess, my initial interest came from a violent attack on the clinic by the Catholic Archbishop. I agreed with him—but not for long. With contraceptive information in the hands of our upper groups are we to be swamped by the numbers of illiterates, morons and the less favored? Lincoln came from the lower stratum? Maybe. The [Rev. John] Wesley from a huge family? I know it. But common sense seems to indicate that science should aid nature. That man better help himself. So far as ethics is concerned—Christian Ethics—morality, peace of mind, harmony, domestic felicity—would all be conserved if contraceptive information of the most approved methods were put in the hands of every woman at the time of her marriage.


Jesse Halsey c1937

(Hoping that possibly out of the process there may be matured a wholesome loaf of bread or, more likely, a small pan of biscuits.)

There follow some random memories and observations out of experience that ultimately might find their way into a brief autobiography.

When I read about the peasantry of France or the yeomanry of England, I always rather proudly assert to myself, “that is the pit from which I was digged,” ‘though the farming element of New England does not, so far as I know, have attached to it any similar term.

In 1640, my ancestors settled on eastern Long Island. They bought land from the Indians and wrested a living from the soil and the sea. The wife of my paternal ancestor, the pioneer, Thomas Halsey, was carried off and murdered by the Indians, but the local tribes pursued the murders up into New England and executed them. There is no record of any further serious disturbance between whites and Indians.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Almost without warning death came to United State District Judge Howard C. Hollister.

Cincinnati Enquirer
25 September 1919

In the library of his home, Baker place, on Madison road, at Walnut Hills, a few minutes after 7 o'clock last night. Although not feeling well since his return September 8 from an extended trip with Mrs. Hollister to the Northwest. Judge Hollister did not regard his condition, to b at all serious. He contracted a cold while away, and complained of a difficulty m breathing. Yesterday morning Judge Hollister went to his courtroom and remained until 2:55 o'clock yesterday afternoon. He told his private secretary. Miss Bessie Colling, to phone to Dr. Emmanuel Schwab to make an appointment to see him.

On his way home Judge Hollister saw Dr. Schwab, who gave him a prescription and reassured him. Just before sitting down to dinner with Mrs. Hollister their daughter Evelyn, wife of William Perry, an Indianapolis railroad man, and two sons, John B. and George, Judge Hollister was taken violently. Dr. Schwab was summoned and Dr. Allen Ramsey also was called in. They did all possible, but Judge Hollister did not rally. He was fully conscious when he died. The cause of his death, Dr. Schwab said, was pulmonary oedema, superinduced by heart disease.

Transacts Court Business.
In spite of feeling badly in the morning, Judge Hollister attended to great deal of Count business. His last official act was to postpone the hearing from Saturday to Monday of the cases of Thomas Hammerschraidt and 12 associates, recently convicted of conspiracy to defeat the draft act, and who were seeking a new trial.

Howard K. Hollister, the only one of his children not at home when his father died, is in New York. Howard Clark Hollister was born on Southern avenue, Mt. Auburn, September 11, 1856. His father, George I Hollister, came to Cincinnati from Vermont, and for several years Judge Hollister represented that state on the Board of Governor of the New England Society. The mother of Judge Hollister, Laura Strait Hollister, was a daughter of Thomas J. Strait, one of the most successful of the early lawyers at the Cincinnati bar. He began practice in this city in 1826. On both sides Judge Hollister was of colonial and revolutionary stock. He had three great-grandfathers who were soldiers in the Revolutionary War. In his boyhood Judge Hollister attended the district Intermediate and High schools, he later took a course of preparation for Yale at Orelock Institute, Williamson. Mass., and, after entering Yale, was graduated from that institution in 1878, in the same class with William H. Taft, afterward President of the United States, and the late Judge William L. Dickson, who were friends of his days in the primary schools of Cincinnati. Another close friend was former Judge Rufus B. Smith.

Admitted To Bar in 1880. After studying law in his father's office Judge Hollister went to the Cincinnati Law School and in the spring of 1880 was admitted to practice by the Supreme Court of Ohio. He served as Assistant Prosecuting Attorney or Hamilton County In 1881 and 1882. He was elected Judge of the Court of Common Pleas in 1893 and re-elected for a second term, serving in all ten years on the Hamilton County Common Pleas bench. At the end of his judicial term Judge Hollister resumed practice of the law with his two brothers, Thomas and Burton P. Hollister. In March, 1910, his lifelong friend, President Taft, appointed Judge Hollister to be United States District Judge to succeed the late Judge Albert Thompson. During his nearly 10 years on the United State bench, Judge Hollister tried many cases, which attracted national attention. He presided at the trial and conviction of President John H. Patterson and other officials of the National Cash Register Company, accused of violation of the provisions of the Sherman anti-trust act. Later the verdict of the jury and rulings of Judge Hollister were reversed and the defendants acquitted. More recently was the Van Tress case. In which Roy Van Tress and his associates of the McAlester Real Estate Exchange, were tried and convicted of conspiracy to misuse the mails to defraud in connection with the sale of Oklahoma lands. Van Tress and his co-defendants were sentenced, but are awaiting the decision of the Circuit Court of Appeals on a new trial.

Fought County Organisation.
Judge Hollister was a strong Republican In national affairs, but (fought the Hamilton County Republican Organisation bitterly at times after his retirement from the Common Pleas bench. He was an elder in Walnut Hills Presbyterian Church and a devout member of that congregation.
Judge Hollister was married June 2 1887 to Miss Alice Keys, daughter of Samuel B. and Julia Baker Keys. The three sons of Judge Hollister entered the military service to their country during the recent war.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

“Going on a trek through Kansas one winter-time . . .”

By Jesse Halsey | c1933

Going on a trek through Kansas one winter-time, visiting former students, knowing his plebian extraction and agrarian interest a minister took him to a new model hatchery; batteries of incubators lined the room which was immaculately white like a hospital operating theatre. Three times a day incubators produced their broods. Greatly impressed our friend ordered fifty Plymouth Rocks to be delivered about Easter.

Easter came and with it frigid weather. Nonetheless, the chicks arrived by parcel post, half frozen, but still alive. The wife set them on the register and they soon revived and put on their pristine puffiness. I had prepared a habitation in the basement—hardware cloth for the bottom, a hover where the chicks could foregather in the heat of a constantly burning hundred-watt lamp. They began to grow at once, a one hundred pound bag of growing meal secured from a downtown store standing hard by. No incidents or accidents save one; the half dozen that fell into the drinking facilities and nearly drowned. Rescued and put in the kitchen over all but one revived.

Forty-nine out of the fifty lived to maturity. Unfortunately, instead of being Plymouth Rocks that have some size and would give some meat, these turned out to be Leghorns, which are raised for their egg productivity, and not for their avoirdupois. As they were all young roosters we had no prospects of either eggs or meat. However, we fed them along until broiler maturity. In the meantime, I had become so attached to them collectively and individually that I found I could not eat them with any relish. Summer heat was coming on and there were olfactory reasons for removing the brood from the basement. In the meager backyard on our alley we devised a hutch of ample proportions but problems multiplied. With growing lustiness the young roosters began to crow at sun-up and disturbed the neighbors along with ourselves. The best wire and lock were no sure safeguard against night prowlers. Several disappeared in spite of the fact that I kept a light burning in the yard all night. Obviously the time for their demise was at hand. I could find no deep freeze nearer than Waukegan so moving them piecemeal to the cellar, I dispatched them, prepared them for canning, and in a steam cooker the broilers turned to soup (for several years we had chicken soup). While Campbell’s could be bought for ten cents a can in those days, when I counted the initial cost, plus the four bags of feed at $5.00 per, without counting anything for work and worry, our chicken soup cost about 50 cents a pint.

I don’t doubt but when we retire to our country diggings we will have some chickens, but they won’t be kept in the cellar and they won’t be leghorns. And we hope it won’t be war times, which was the excuse for the experiment.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

An Easter Affirmation c1931

Parish Paragraphs, In Lieu of a Pastoral Epistle

March 22, 1931
The Seventh Presbyterian Church
In Cincinnati
Jesse Halsey, Minister

“I wish that you would put up with a little ‘folly’ from me. Do put up with it, for I feel a divine jealousy on your behalf.” –II Cor. 11: 1-2.

It is eighteen years ago Sunday that the present minister first preached in this church. Mr. Garvey and Mr. Besuden met him at the door. On the afternoon of the following Sunday (Easter Day) Judge Hollister and Mr. Ballantyne talked with him about the possibility of his becoming the minister . . .

This is from Ian Maclaren, my patron saint. (An elder is speaking to a young minister.) “There is just on thing that the brethren laid upon me to say, and you will not be considering it a liberty from the elders. You are never to be troubled in the pulpit, or to be thinking about anything but the Word of the Lord and the souls of the people, of which you are the shepherd. We will ask you to remember, when you stand in your place to speak to us in the name of the Lord, that as the smoke goeth up from the homes of the people in the morning, so their prayers will be ascending for their minister, and, as you look down upon us before you begin to speak, maybe you will say to yourself, “They are all loving me.’”
. . .

The acoustics in the church are bad. Two thousand dollars worth of acoustical material would cure it. But there is another way—a full house, and all hear perfectly! The hard surfaces are too many; but four to five hundred people will cure it. On Easter Day, with its crowd, you can hear a pin drop. If one day, why not other days?

The Canvass comes on March 22. The preacher will talk about money. Nothing sordid in that. The Romance of the Kingdom is tied up with its use. “Good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”

This from Carl W. Petty: he is describing two ministers, acquaintances: “one gives a brilliant performance. His sermons are literary gems, his delivery is faultless. But when he is through that is the end of it. He has a metropolitan pulpit, but he preaches in the suburbs of the great realities. He juggles skillfully with secondary issues. There is no urgency in his preaching. And there is B--, his sermons show carful preparation, but preparation for an event rather than a performance. His sermons do not scintillate, but they stab into the heart of things. Preaching for him means wrestling with stern reality, asking no quarter nor giving any. When he is through you go out convinced something ought to be done about it, and that you are a partner in the responsibility of getting it done.”

On Death

MS. For Russell Dicks, 1500-1800 words

By Rev. Jesse Halsey, D.D.
Lane Professor of Pastoral Theology and Liturgics
McCormick Theological Seminary | c1947

The Puritans gave much thought to death; we give very little. But with the passing of a friend or relative, and with increasing years, death comes nearer and reveals to us his fearsome mien. One modern preacher of wide experience avers that “death is not long from the thought of any person.”

Be that as it may, the writer here testifies that only twice in a ministry of forty years has any person come deliberately and asked frankly and fearlessly to talk about death.

The writer of Hebrews says that Christ came “to destroy him that hath the power of death (that is, the devil) and to deliver them who through fear of death were al their life-time subject to bondage.” Even without Luther’s emphasis on the part the devil plays in the picture, we would all gladly confess that the deliverance from this, as form every other devastating fear is in some very real measure related to Christ and our fellowship with  Him.

First then, look at His teaching; then at His experience, though they are so interwoven that, with Chaucer, we rejoice in saying, “first He wrought and afterwards He taught.”

Jesus never argues about God’s existence or being; He calls God “Father,” and teaches his disciples to pray and say “Our Father.” He himself is overhead to pray thus, “Father, I thank Thee . . .” (Luke 10:21) In the hour of death He asks the question we often ask, “My God, why? . . .” thus bringing comfort to many who have come after:  “in all our affliction he was afflicted . . .” He learned obedience by the things that he suffered: “having suffered being tempted he is able to succor them that are tempted.” But in the last article of death He is heard to murmur—or was it in a strong voice to say, “Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit.” This is the ultimate faith, His or ours.

Likewise, Jesus never argues about immortality, He takes it for granted. It is an axiom of faith. Stated in argument: “A cosmos cannot have a chaos for its crown” (Latze), it seems reasonable. But that was not Jesus’ approach. In the Upper Room when they were all distressed by his departure, He said, “Let not your hearts be troubled, ye believe in God; believe also in me; in my Father’s house are many rooms: If it were not so I would have told you.” Philip was not the last to ask such questions, nor the last to get an answer: “not what I do believe, but Whom”; “I know whom I have believed (trusted) and am persuaded He is able . . .”

“We do not believe in immortality because we can prove it, but we constantly try to prove it because we believe it,” so says Martineau. Then, as George Herbert Palmer said at the death of his wife, “emotion joins our reason,” and we refuse to longer doubt.

As Christians we walk by faith and in the fellowship of Christ: trusting as He trusted, it is impossible to be afraid. Many, like Mr. Fearing and his daughter, Miss Much-Afraid, when they finally come to the river go over “not much above wet-shod.” The roots of our religion are in Christ’s resurrection and the concomitant belief that as He lives we shall live also. Communion with Him along the way—prayer as we most often call it—is the –is the secret. Willum MacLure, the Highland doctor who all his life from boyhood had knelt down every night and said, “Now I lay me down to sleep, if I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take, and this I ask for Jesus’ sake. Amen,” like many another found light in the night of death. Prayer; honest confession; bold assurance of faith; humility, confidence, trust; “vocal or unexpressed”; this is the best preparation for death.

An illuminating experience, and encouraging to us because it is rather typical of the experience of many others who have for human reasons changed their point of view with a change of personal circumstances, is that of Sir William Osler, the great physician, who in a lecture on Immortality delivered at Harvard* in 1904 says that as a physician he has seen many persons die and most of them were unconscious or unconcerned. He confesses that he is also a “Laodicean,” i.e., indifferent (Revelation 3:15). Some ten years later his only son, Revere, was killed in the First World War. Sir William’s whole attitude changed. Thereafter he was often heard singing or humming snatches of Abelard’s hymn about heaven: “O what the joy and the glory must be.” His center of gravity had changed.

When the feelings are neutral one can argue for or against immortality in as remote a way as some of the Ingersoll lectures*, but “let one of his own flesh and blood bid him goodbye and pass within the veil and reason surrenders the place to love, and many a man has set his face toward the Eternal City in the hope that he may again see a golden head on which the sun is ever shining.” (Ian Maclaren)

“Aunt” Abby Grey, ninety years old was dying. She had read the Bible through over sixty times and knew great passages by heart. In her youth she had learned an ancient catechism. Her young pastor stood by her bed. Because her children, and her children’s children who stood by were of another form of faith, the minister had read from their Book, with no response from the patient. Then the minister began to repeat, “In my Father’s house . . .” The old lady picked up a verbal inaccuracy and carried on half the chapter, then sank into a coma. Presently, however, her lips moved and the nurse said that she couldn’t make it out, it sounds like “souls of believers.” Fortunately, the young minister had also once learned the Catechism and picked it up: “the souls of believers do immediately pass into Glory and . . .” “Aunt” Abby had “gone home.”

*For the last fifty years Harvard has sponsored the Ingersoll Lectures on Immortality. Clergymen, scientists, and others have given their ideas in a series expressing many points of view, and now totaling nearly thirty different books.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Rural Parish A.D. 1800

For McCormick Speaking | c1948
By Jesse Halsey

East Hampton lies well toward the east end of that sand-spit known as Long Island, which like a sperm whale has its head anchored toward Manhattan and throws its double-pronged flukes a hundred and thirty miles out into the Atlantic. Timothy Dwight, the president of Yale, made a journey down the Island in 1800 and leaves a report of his impressions in his journal. One of the objectives of his long trek by horse-back and coach along the sandy trails through the scrub oaks, and dunes, and beside the water roads, was a visit to his former pupil Lyman Beecher, then the minister at East Hampton. A deep mutual affection existed between the young parson and his old professor. Beecher was thoroughly grounded in Dwight’s type of theology—liberal for its time.

The East Hampton Church, like several of its neighbors, was founded in the 1640s. They were called individually, The Church of Christ in East Hampton, Southampton, Southold, and so on. Congregational of necessity at first, by 1800 they were Presbyterian, at least in name, and Long Island Presbytery was one of the constituents of the first Synod (1717). These churches were closely allied geographically, ethnographically, culturally, financially, and every otherwise with New England; most of their ministers came from Yale college.

East Hampton Parish consisted of 300 souls scattered in several hamlets and centering in “the village” which sprawled around the Church. This stood near it on the east side of the Town Pond, the cemetery, and the Common. Across the street stood the Clinton Academy, the first of its kind in New York state. The steeple of the church, the cupola of the academy, and three towering Dutch windmills dominated the skyline. Scraggly elm trees, long since become stately, bordered the wide village street; sandy in the summer, a quagmire of mud in the springtime.

The manse, a gray-shingled salt-box house stood hard by the church. Its wide-planked floors like all other in the town were powdered with clean white sand from the ocean beach. The minister’s bride had received a gift in money from an uncle with which Beecher bought a bale of cotton. This, spun and woven into fabric, Mrs. Beecher determined to make into a carpet. She tacked it to the attic floor and on it painted a bright floral design of roses. This in due season was fitted to the living room floor. Soon after Deacon Talmadge made a call. As the deacon hesitated to enter the preacher said, “Come in, deacon, it is made to walk on.” The old deacon threw up his hands and exclaimed, “All this, and heaven too?”

“Wide was the parish, with houses far asunder,” as Chaucer says of his parson, but like his prototype Beecher, on horse-back and on foot, covered the territory between the village and the Springs, on Montauk 15 miles away where dwelt the remnants of an Indian tribe. With the fervency of youth and the zeal of the old time religion, the pastor went his rounds visiting and “holding meetings.” The trip to the Indian settlement entailed a toilsome journey across a trackless waste of sand called Nappeague, the ocean on one side and the bay that opened into Long Island Sound on the other. Here along the route in season there were wild grapes, blackberries, huckleberries, beach plums, and cranberries: with these the preacher kept his growing household well supplied.

Beecher was also an ardent fisherman and no mean hunter. There were several brooks along the trails through his parish and he would often bring home fish for supper, as he always carried tackle in the pockets of his long-tailed coat. On one occasion he hooked some fish, slipped them into the big pocket of his Sabbath coat, and forgot them until he appeared in the pulpit on the next Lord’s Day, when as he extracted his handkerchief, the remnant of the fish were revealed.

The young minister introduced the country-side to horticulture. Like Jonny Appleseed, he started trees, budded them, developed an orchard and taught his parishioners and neighbors to do the same.

The duel in which Aaron Burr killed Alexander Hamilton called forth great indignation throughout the states. Beecher wrote a sermon condemning the practice, and after submitting it to his friend Lyon Gardner (the owner of a large island adjoining the mainland which had been entailed from his ancestors since 1638) preached it in his own pulpit, and again at a meeting of Synod in Elizabethtown, New Jersey, and in new York City, where it gained newspaper publicity. This, historians say, was the beginning of the active agitation that led to legislation that outlawed the practice. Moreover, it gave the young country minister a national reputation.

Beecher had been preceded in his pastorate by Dr. Samuel Buell who served nearly sixty years. It was he who converted Sir William Erskine, the British general in command during the occupation of Long Island by the British. The conversion was not from Anglicanism to Presbyterianism, but to the patriot cause so that the general resigned his commission and went back to England. Dr. Buell had promoted several successful revivals and this, both in his day and in Beecher’s, was the criterion of a successful ministry. Moreover, Dr. Buell practiced what was known as “the half-way covenant,” that is, children were universally baptized regardless of whether their parents had communicant church connections or not. Beecher did not believe in this practice and frankly said so. This led to at least minor frictions with his deacons and congregation. Nonetheless, the young minister went from strength  to strength, and for ten years, with a series of revivals and by consistent pastoral ministrations built up his church in membership and influence, and his own influence in the Presbytery, and his reputation throughout the Island and southern New England.

Catherine Beecher, the oldest daughter, was herself a pioneer in education, writing extensively in magazines and books, not only about pedagogical theory but practical methods, including kitchen arrangements—with drawings attached. Years afterword, when most of the family had become farmers, in writing to her brother, Charles, she tells many interesting things about the East Hampton home where she was born. “Strict discipline—‘Mind your mother’; ‘Quick!’; ‘No crying’; ‘Look pleasant!’ These were words of command, obeyed with almost military speed and precision. This strong government was always attended with overflowing sympathy and love.”

The parson’s chief daily recreations were frolics with his children. “I remember him more as a playmate than in any other character during my childhood.” He was fond of playing pranks, for his amusement as well as that of the children. Once he swung Catherine out of the garret window by the hands to see if it would frighten her, which it did not in the least. Another time, as he was running past a washtub he ducked her head into it to see what she would do. “He taught me to catch fish and I was his constant companion, riding in his chaise in my little chair to the villages around where he went to hold meetings,” she writes. “As I grew older I began to share his more elevated trains of thought. By this intellectual companionship our house became in reality a school of the highest kind in which he was all the while exerting a powerful influence upon the mind and character of his children.”

The ocean was nearly a half-mile from the house. The roar could be heard any hour of the day or night and white sails could be seen from the windows. On the occasions of a northeast storm, members of the family often went down to watch from the shelter of the beach banks. There was a cranberry marsh between the village and the beach, and the dunes were covered with beach plums in season.

The children who in summer constantly played on the beach often played tag with the surf—“Sometimes we were overtaken and drenched. “ As they learned to swim they were taught to watch out for the “sea-poose” made by two waves meeting from opposite directions then creating a sort of suction-vacuum in their furious race back to the ocean.

With the other villagers they watched for the “weft” when a whale was sighted off-shore. The first to see it removed his coat and waved it, ran up along the beach-banks shouting, “Whale off!” “Whale off!” “When it came its strange wild notes poured out over the town. It seemed as though I could almost fly so great was my excitement,” wrote one of the children. Once, at least, the preacher went off with a village crew chasing a whale ten miles to sea.

Beecher was fond of hunting the wild birds—ducks and geese—which came in profusion every spring and fall. He once took his two boys, William and Edward, with him to fish for eels and “they brought back nearly a cartload of them.” They gathered beach plums by the bushel and these, with quinces and cranberries, were the common table sweetmeats.

Because of straightened finances, Mrs. Beecher kept a school for young ladies. The boarding pupils lived with the family; two English girls, one from Honduras, and several from Island villages as much as fifty miles away, all lived with the family. Mr. Beecher had learned to play the violin while in college and for the benefit of the girls “every day played the liveliest airs, but if any of the girls began to take a dancing step, he would make the violin give a doleful screech and thus ended every attempt to dance.”

One of the girls, Eleanor Lawless from Honduras (“as wild and untamed as her name”) brought a piano with her, the first ever seen in the village. No wonder that the house was filled with wondering and delighted listeners. The manse overflowed with young people and “father’s constitutional mirthfulness developed itself more freely than ever afterwards.”

During his pastorate Beecher was seriously ill for over a year, unable to preach and journeyed as far as Baldston Spa looking for a cure. His salary was promptly paid, however, and the deacons took responsibility for the conduct of the services. Toward the end of the year, Deacon Fithian refused to pay his tithe. “Why is it,” asked the deacon, “that ministers are so greedy for money? “That,” replied the minister, “is the only way to save the souls of some of their parishioners, they are so greedy themselves that we have to take it from them!”

A series of revivals attended Beecher’s ten year pastorate: “times of refreshing from the Presence of the Lord.” On one occasion one hundred were added to the membership of the church. The Infidel Club that was in the town, headed by a school teacher and a doctor, quietly broke up under the influence of Beecher’s logical preaching and his friendly ways that included the doctor and teacher on fishing and hunting trips.

Methodist evangelicals were “undermining” the (stolid) Presbyterian constituency here and there on the Island. One such itinerant drove into East Hampton. Beecher immediately went to the tavern, took the preacher home with him, entrained him royally, rang the church bell that evening, and loaned him the pulpit. Next morning the Methodist brother was seen leaving town, driving back toward New York, the last visit of a Methodist during Beecher’s time.

Family obligations (four children were born) led Beecher to ask for an increase in salary, which the congregation refused. He then moved to Litchfield, Conn., where Henry Ward and Harriet (Beecher Stowe) were born. The old church building is gone long since, though Beecher’s high pulpit is preserved in the Clinton Academy. The old windmills remain and one of them still grinds grist.

Beecher and his family went on from strength to strength—Litchfield, Boston, Lane—so that at his funeral in 1860 the officiating minister (Rev. Bacon) could say with some truth that the country was made up of “Saints, Sinnerx, and Beechers.”