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My Dear Children,
I write this account of your father’s life and my own that you may be able to recall many events in them and become acquainted with some others. As I introduce a letter from your father’s grandfather and one from his grandmother, I shall give you a little sketch of these two.
James Parker was a man of tall stature and large frame, possessing a mind of more than ordinary thought and vigor and his wife, who was called “good Mrs. Parker” on account of her many benevolent deeds, was remarkable for her piety and excellence. Mr. Parker’s time was much engrossed in attending to the large landed interest possessed by the family and in executing the duties of various local offices, among others that of Councilor under Governor Franklin. The deep interest he had at stake led him to pursue a different course from that adopted by most of his family connections, by preserving a strict neutrality in word and deed between the Royalists and Provincials. He took no office and endeavored to keep him self aloof from the party dissensions of the time, removing his family in November 1775 to a farm in Bethlehem, Hunterdon County, New Jersey, where they lived until peace was declared in 1783. He had married Gertrude Skinner in 1763, daughter of Elizabeth Van Cortlandt and Reverend William Skinner, the first Rector of St. Peter’s Church, Perth Amboy, New Jersey, and lived in the old stone building which has received the lofty sounding name of “The Castle”. It was built in 1719 by his father, John Parker, who married Janet Johnstone, the daughter of Eupheme Scott and Dr. John Johnstone who came over on the Henry and Francis from Scotland.
There is a deed existing of the gift of land by Elisha Parker to his son, John, which is dated 1715. It is certain that all of John’s children were born there; all the bills for the wooden building fronting on Water Street are accepted in 1764-1765. These are all done up in a bundle with the endorsement of your father’s grandfather, James Parker, who married Gertrude Skinner. When the “new part”, as it is still called, was added by him and the stone building was reduced one story so that the upper room was on a level with the entrance to the new house. The drawing below this writing was made by your cousin, Mr. Whitehead when he was quite young and used for his father’s book on the history of New Jersey.
The entire history of William Skinner, the father of Gertrude Skinner, is still wrapt in obscurity. A romantic version is given in your Uncle’s book, but is not considered reliable. When Effie and I were in England, she made diligent efforts to discover his early life and descent, but with but little success. We saw several of the McGregor Clan of whom he was thought to be a member and also Lady McGregor whose son, a youth of seventeen who will be their Chief when he attains his majority. She promised to make enquiries for us at the Advocates Edinburgh Library, but no communication ever reached us.
In a letter from his daughter Gertrude Skinner, dated 1808 to her nephew Cortland, Carrisbrook House, Isle of Wight and written from Perth Amboy, she says “In a letter, written to your mother some time since, I mentioned that my father was a McGregor – he always said he was, and that the name of Skinner was assumed in the year 1715, or when the Clan was prescribed and was the name of a faithful friend of my grandfather. My grandfather was born at Banff and received the first rudiments of his education in a grammar school in that city. Lord Balm was his most intimate friend. At a proper time they were sent to the University of Aberdeen (she says I think Oxford but it was found to be a mistake).” “He went through all his degrees and always wore the gown of Bachelor of Arts. Upon my observing to him that his dress was not like that of the other clergymen, he answered “No, I wear the gown of a Master of Arts – that badge I shall never give up.” “When he said this he was much affected. I often endeavored to persuade him to speak of himself and his connections and one evening when he had talked more freely than usual, he stopped suddenly and said “You have led me to say what I did not intend. Why should I put ideas into your head which may do you harm? Be content with what you are.” “He told me, that after the defeat of the Scotch, he was at The Hague with Lord Balmerino and many others. He afterwards went to Paris and Rome, he then found his knowledge of the languages of great use, he spoke the Latin fluently and was well versed in Greek and Hebrew. He also spoke French, but said he was a better translator than speaker. He was very much esteemed as a scholar both at Philadelphia and New York. After about four years wandering in Europe, he went to the West Indies, did not like the climate, came to Boston in New England and traveled through North America. At Philadelphia he met some of his countrymen. Mr. Allen Logan induced him to educate his son. He spent several years there and by this time had turned his thoughts to the ministry and being advised by the then Bishop of London, went to England and was ordained and came over to Perth Amboy, New Jersey in 1722 as a missionary from the Society for Propagating the Gospel in Foreign Parts, where he resided until his death. He often talked of his country and would tell many anecdotes of himself and friends, but this kind of discourse generally ended in tears. When Lord Balmerino was beheaded (on Tower Hill) he was much grieved and confined himself some days to his room. After this he was called on several times by strangers – an air of mystery was over all his discourse on the subject of his country. I have heard him say to himself “Oh, my country” and sometimes name friends. The misfortunes of his country deeply affected him – he often wished for a Cup of Lethe, yet as his natural disposition was lively, he was a pleasing companion and charitable to the extent of his power.” In the London Gazette of December 1715, the name of George Skinner (probably his father) is found among the Scotch rebels taken at Preston, brought to London and committed to the Tower, Marshallsea and Newgate.
The record of William Skinner’s ordination by the Bishop of London has been found. It is dated on the 12th and 19th of August 1722 – Deacon and Priest. From this record we learn that he had received the degrees of M.A. and B.A. from King’s College, Aberdeen University. His son, Brigadier General Cortlandt Skinner McGregor had a daughter who married Sir George Nugent. In her diary she says “we proceeded to Sir John Murray’s Limerick Castle, where we were most hospitably entertained and all their few neighbors invited to do us honor. These were limited to a few of the McGregor Clan and Lord and Lady Donne. We were very much amused with the clannish historical and with hearing all the Jacobite feelings and prejudices descanted upon, just as it was in the years of 15 and 45. In the drawing room and in Lady Murray’s dressing room there were portraits of Price Charles, and General Nugent, I am sure, shocked the whole party very much by calling him “the Pretender” for he was immediately corrected by the Lady of the house who said “Prince Charles” if you please. I saw too a portrait of my dear father among many others of the McGregor Clan and although a wooden sort of painting, it is something of a likeness. We then set out again on our tour accompanied by our kind and good friends, the Murray’s, for Trinity Lodge near Edinburgh the seat of Colonel Murray. Saw the Castle, Holyrood House, etc., in short all the scion of that beautiful city and were feted by all the McGregor’s and their friends for a week. I must not omit to mention that I saw my pedigree both at Holyrood House and the Lord Advocate’s Library and was desired to be proud of my descent.” Lady McGregor informed us that she must have meant the Advocates Library. I may not have mentioned distinctly that after the defeat of the Scotch Highlanders, they were obliged to relinquish their own names and some of them took the name of Murray.
In the old stone building with the new wooden addition, Gertrude and James Parker passed their lives with the exception of a few years in Bethlehem, New Jersey, where their son James was born March 1, 1776. When a boy of thirteen he was sent, with a quarter of a dollar in his pocket, to visit some friends in New York, on a schooner which left Perth Amboy early in the week and returned at the end of it. This was the only means of communication with the city except by taking a ferry boat to Staten Island and thence by carriage to the end opposite Perth Amboy, from whence a boat would be signaled for; in severe weather the ice afforded a safe passage. While in the streets of New York your grandfather found that some event of importance was transpiring, and having climbed a lamppost, witnessed the inauguration of George Washington, the first President of the United States. At the death of his father in 1797, he left a situation for which he was admirably fitted in a mercantile house in New York to undertake the care of the family and manage the estate rather than declare it insolvent. He was a man of singular integrity, great fairness of mind and a most kindly heart, which last was sometimes concealed under a rough and impatient manner. His sisters were so fond of him and so unwilling to pain him that when the oldest had engaged herself to a British officer and they were both too poor to marry, she allowed her lover to sail away without saying anything to her brother, who was then the head of the house. When your grandfather was told of this many years after, he said “Why did they not tell me? I would have found some way to arrange it.” He was sent to Congress for six years, but would never take any measures for election and could never be depended upon by his party, as he always voted for the man he considered best fitted for the office. In a memoir, published by the Historical Society you will find how large a number of wonderful events occurred during his long life of ninety two years and what an honorable part he took in all measures for the public good. He married Penelope Butler in January 1803, who died July 25, 1823, AE 39, by whom he had nine children, some of whom died young. In 1827 he married Catherine Morris Ogden. An admirable woman and a true lover of children who devoted herself to make him and those belonging to him happy, and the old house at “the corner” where she gave to all a loving welcome, was filled in summer to its utmost capacity by his numerous descendents. At the back was a high piazza, twelve feet wide and the length of the house which became their favorite playground. Your father was born in this old house, the picture of which you will find on the first page, July 18th 1807. His mother was bright, cheerful, energetic and a very handsome woman, who sang very sweetly and was always ready to join in all innocent amusements. She found her son William so “handy” and careful in domestic matters that she preferred to call on him instead of her daughter. He was always good and obedient, and I have no doubt conscientious in his lessons, but his instructor, Dommie Chapman, as he was called, was neither calculated by nature, not education, to inspire or inform his pupils. At the age of fifteen he was sent to Captain Partridge’s Military Academy at Norwich, Vermont, where he evidently improved his opportunities and studied, among other branches, Civil Engineering and Surveying. He also gained there the erect and soldierly bearing which he never lost and which often caused him to be asked if he were a graduate of West Point. While at Captain Partridge’s the school was marched during the summer months to the White Mountains and he always remembered with satisfaction that being strong and agile he outstripped his comrades and was the first to reach the summit of Mr. Washington, where he was delighted and awestruck by the glorious view of the sea of mountains which were below him. I think he could not have remained at this academy more than two years before he chose his life work and began it on the Juniata Canal in Pennsylvania. While engaged, sometime after, on a railroad near Germantown, he made the acquaintance of your uncle, William Scollay Whitwell, who was also an engineer, and he was a little shocked to see him come into the town on Sunday on the top of a load of iron rails. Notwithstanding this, they soon became intimate friends and, when the Boston and Worcester R.R. was to be built your uncle obtained for him the appointment of First Assistant, under Colonel Fessenden. While stationed at Framingham he used to walk five miles every Sunday to a small Episcopal church in Newton Upper Falls. Passing a Sunday in Boston, he was invited by your grandmother to take a seat in her pew to hear Dr. Channing, then the most famous and elegant preacher in the city. The church was so crowded that the invitation was valuable, but he declined on conscientious grounds. At this time I was absent at Genesco, New York and did not become acquainted with him until some months after.
I will give you an extract from your Uncle William’s letter to me there,
dated Germantown, Pennsylvania, January 22, 1832, “Parker is a bird of
another color; possessed of more character, finer principles and a rigid
regard for religion, he wants the vivacity which renders Davies as a companion
so agreeable. Neatness and precision are with him sterling virtues
and those peculiarities of my character in regard to shirt collars and
dress which so often excited your ridicule are with him carried to an extreme,
very proper and worthy of imitation. You may believe it gives me
pleasure to find a kindred spirit”.
Your father and Uncle William remained on the Boston & Worcester R. R. until its completion and, while they were at Westboro, my dear friend, Mary G. Hubbard and I, who were to teach at Mrs. Emerson’s school, went to pass a few weeks at Framingham in order to enjoy the country and especially to ride on horseback. One Sunday Mr. Parker called for me and drove me over to the Unitarian Church where we heard a sermon from the excellent Dr. Follen, in which I thought he could find nothing objectionable. To my surprise he said “I am not quite sure that we ought to use our reason in matters of religion.” Before many months he changed his views, principally from reading Worcester on the Atonement, which was lent to him by your dear Aunt Suzie Whitwell, and was ever after an earnest Unitarian.
In the summer of 1835 he went to visit his family in Perth Amboy, and your grandmother and I went at the same time to Philadelphia to visit Mrs. S. V. Merrick. She afterward joined us and we saw together Niagara and Trenton. That autumn he was asked to be the Engineer of the East Florida R. R. After specifying duties and salary, Mr. Lewis, President of the Board of Directors, writes “From your known ability, sound judgment and urbane manners, and from the like qualities possessed by Mr. Penney, the Superintendent, the Board do not anticipate any probability of serious conflict of opinion or collision of powers between you.” A short time before this your father and I were engaged to each other, and at the back of this book you will find a characteristic letter from your grandfather in reply to the announcement of it to him. On the 11th of December your father and your Uncle William left us to make a survey across Florida. We suffered much anxiety all winter on account of the unsettled state of the Seminole Indians and the threatening of war with them. In fact, we heard at one time, by the newspapers, that the whole party had been cut off; but happily I had received a letter of a later date which proved this to be untrue. Our distress however, had not been unfounded, for on their return they confessed their belief that had the Indians known of their presence in the country they could not have escaped them.
July 28, 1836 your father and I were married by the Reverend Francis W. P. Greenwood, at your grandmother’s house at the corner of Chestnut and Spence Streets. His father, mother and sister Sarah, and his cousin George C. Meade, were present, together with my mother, sister and brothers, my uncles and aunts and cousins, and most of the family of my dear friend Mary G. Hubbard and a few others. As our lives from this time flowed on together for more than thirty years, until death separated them. I will give you a sketch of my life before we met each other.
My father, Benjamin Whitwell, my grandmother’s cousin, was married to Lucy C. Scollay, May 1st, 1808 by Reverend ???. He was a lawyer, settled in Augusta, Maine and was a widower when he married my mother, who was fifteen years younger than himself. I was born May 6, 1811 and from an almost letter of her sister, Mary Scollay, who was visiting her I quote the following, “May 13, 1811, Augusta. This day our little darling is a week old and I assure you she begins to look quite handsome. I think she will have a fair skin, as she has looked as yellow as an orange, but she has now stolen some of the whiteness of the snow. She will have fine eyes and looks extremely like William in all her features. Mr. Whitwell held William beside here and you would have been astonished to see how their features accorded. She weighted 8 ¼ pounds two days after her birth. We very often wish we could show the little babe to you all. She is a fine child, by which I mean a fine, fat, healthy infant, for as to her mental faculties it is not to be supposed that they have yet discovered themselves – at any rate we love her very much indeed and little William almost devours her with kisses. Her name is almost concluded upon, it is to be Lucy Cushing. Now I suppose you will exclaim and scold, but I charge you let not your asperities be thrown at the mother, she would be willing to name her Ann Cecilia”.
My mother’s brother William, who was very dear to the family, was just engaged to Cecilia Innis of England. My father must have disliked so romantic a name, as he named me for his mother and his own wife Lucy Ann Innis, which gave no satisfaction to anyone. The engagement was broken and he applied to the Legislature in Maine to change the name, and my mother did not discover it for several years after when on a visit to Augusta she was asked by a rather inquisitive friend why it was done. My mother enjoyed her life in Augusta very much as she found in the families of the Merrick's and Vaughan’s very dear and congenial friends; but as my father’s health became impaired and he thought that the long and severe winters were especially injurious to him he removed to Boston in 1812 when I was fifteen months old.
I insert here a letter from him when I had the whooping cough when I was six years old which contains advice which is as good now as it was then. (See letter at back) As I was not a very strong child in order that I should have the benefit of a more country life, when nine years old I visited Mrs. John Merrick at Hallowell. I was to pass the summer, but I was so happy there that I afterward stayed a year with her and made several visits to what was to be, to me, another home. I was there in July 1823 when my youngest brother James Scollay was born. At eleven years old I was sent to Dr. Park, a most delightful man who was one of the first who thought that girls should have very much the same advantages of education which were given to boys. Many persons were surprised that I should be put to a school for young ladies, for I was very much younger than the other scholars and went by the name of “little Whitwell”. I was very happy there and only regretted that I was obliged to omit the summer quarter on account of my health. The price of tuition was thought extremely high ($25.00) per quarter, the vacation being unusually long, being the whole month of August. I must copy a passage from my father’s letter dated 1823 when I was at Hallowell, which will amuse you as being very characteristic of your loving aunt. “Elizabeth had taken for her protégé, Charlotte Coolidge; she keeps her in the attic with her little Quaker children. I call them so, just as wooden guns in ships which look like real ones are called “quakers”, but differ very materially as they make no noise and do no mischief.”
My father died just before I was fourteen (read short obituary) and I was taken from school because my mother could not afford to send me, but she allowed me to go for one quarter the next year. She was left with five children and an income of a few hundred dollars, and took young girls to board who wished to go to school, as well as some older people. We also did a great deal of needlework. I formed many life-long friendships with the girls and visited them in their homes in Springfield, Northampton, Charlestown, New Hampshire and Barnstable and Genesco. My dear little brother James was so severely burned in 1827 that he could not recover, which was a very great grief to us all.
At eighteen years old I joined a Miss Stocker who had a school for small children just across Spruce Street where we lived, and took with me my three cousins who helped to form an older class. Twice a week, on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons, I taught dancing with the assistance of my mother who attended to the discipline and received the ladies who came with their children. This school was very successful and I continued it for two years, but it was very exhausting. At the end of one year I left Miss Stocker and had a very pleasant set of girls, about fourteen of them, in the basement of my mother’s home at the corner of Chestnut and Spruce Streets, Boston, MA. About a year before this I had become acquainted with dear Mary Hubbard and our two families were very intimate. The next year, wishing to leave Boston for a while, I opened a school in Springfield (1832) which was very successful and in which I was much interested, when Mr. James Wadsworth and my dear friend Lizzie, his daughter, stopped on their way to Boston to see me. Soon afterwards my mother wrote that Mr. Wadsworth was very desirous that I should go to Genesco with them to pass the winter and be with Elizabeth, as she would have no female friend with her, and she knew she must soon receive the sad news of the death of her only remaining sister. She had already lost a mother who was very dear to her and a sister of my age with whom I had been very intimate. In those days of stage coaches and steamboats, it was impossible for a young girl to travel alone in that direction, and Mr. Wadsworth could give me but ten days for preparation, so my mother wrote me to dismiss my school and return home as son as possible. I did not realize that the parents of my scholars would regret my going or be disturbed in their arrangements by my doing so, but I have ever since regretted that it was done in so summary a manner. I had not been at Genesco long when Mr. Wadsworth’s brother, who lived with him died, and shortly after we heard of the death of his daughter Mrs. Martin Brimmer, at the West Indies. Elizabeth and I pursued our studies together and read aloud the whole of Humes History of England besides other works. The roads were too muddy for anything but horseback riding and this we both enjoyed greatly. In May 1833, I had the great delight of going with my friends to Niagara Falls and Trenton, after which we set out for Boston taking in on the way, New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore. On reaching home I found that Mr. George B. Emerson, who taught the best school in Boston for young ladies, had asked my mother if I would be one of his assistants and I agreed to it. My dear Mary Hubbard wished to study and be together and, as she was very fond of Mr. Emerson, who had been her teacher, and had also a strong desire to try her powers of imparting what she had learned, he was glad to engage her also. That summer before I began teaching again, my dear cousin, Anna W. Carter went with me to Framingham, to enjoy the delights of the country and especially that of riding horseback. Your Uncle William and Mr. Parker were at Westboro, and with a friend of Mr. Parker’s, Mr. James H. Bell, came to see us occasionally. When Anna left, Mary Hubbard took her place. We found in Framingham, a very agreeable young physician, Dr. John Kittredge, son of the Rector of the place. He had graduated recently and was handsome and full of spirits and having but little to do in assisting his father, he was very glad to make one in our excursions. One evening we rode thirty miles. We were told a very amusing story of his childhood. He was a mischievous boy and the neighbors complained of some of his pranks. His father was very fond of him and knowing he would outgrow these tricks, was very unwilling to punish him. But how could he satisfy the complaints? He armed himself with a horse-whip and took the offender into a shed from which noise could easily be heard, and using the whip on anything but the beloved son, said to him in a whisper “Holler, John, Holler!” While we were passing an old looking house Dr. Kittredge told us that a strange character lived there, a very straight forward old man, with strong natural sense, but no polish. This objection to a young schoolmaster amused us. He got up in the midst of an assembly convened to decide upon the young man’s merit, and began, after putting his arms akimbo, “We thinks that when the master kisses the big girls and licks the little girls for laughing at it, it is high time for him to go.”
In September Mary and I began to teach at Mr. Emerson’s school, studying hard at the same time. I had left Dr. Parks when I was fourteen and went but one quarter a year after. I was so conscious of my deficiencies that when I had been teaching one week I said to Mr. Emerson that he had better find someone to take my place as I was not fit for it. “You are just the one I want”, he replied. So there was nothing to do but remain and study. Your Aunt Lizzie passed the winter with Grandmother Scollay, while your father and I went to the Worcester House in Worcester where your father was acquainted. By this time the Seminoles had become so troublesome that no engineering could be carried on until they were subdued, so that when the drawings and maps were finished his occupation was gone. It was a great disappointment, but when we were young and hopeful and glad of the opportunity to enjoy other’s society. In the spring we returned to Boston and took a room at Miss Livermore’s in Somerset Place, but we were not pleasantly accommodated, so that when our dear old friend Mrs. B. Joy offered her house to my mother that she might keep house for your Aunt Sissie and ourselves, we felt it to be a great boon to exchange the small and dingy quarters in Somerset Place for her roomy and airy ones in Chestnut Street which looked down the Common. There, on 24th of June, 1837, our oldest son, William Whitwell Parker was born, to the great delight of the whole family. After a visit to Perth Amboy to show our new treasure to his grandparents, we took a furnished house in the Highlands, Roxbury, for the winter.
On Thanksgiving Day, we all assembled, as usual, at Grandmother Scollay’s to the number of twenty-two and each one was requested to contribute some verses, which I insert in this scrapbook. After dinner the first great grandchild was baptized by the Reverend Mr. Ellery Channing in the presence of the whole party. On the 18th of December your father left us to go to Brunswick, Georgia to construct a canal. We passed a quiet, but pleasant winter, but our boy was ill several times with croup and escaped Scarlet Fever almost by a miracle, for his nurse took it, but happily did not give it to him, although he slept with her and was nursed by her through it all. In April we left the Highlands and found a small, brick hotel kept by Mr. and Mrs. John Meade, which was situated in West Newton, and would be very convenient to your father as near Boston and on the line of the railroad. He returned to us on the 23rd day of May, and as soon as the weather became sultry we changed to Nahant in July and remained there until October 1st. Your father left us a few days earlier to make a railroad across Florida, from Brunswick to Tallahassee; your grandmother remained with me, and we went, for the sake of economy, to Lynn for a time and then in November to Miss Swanson’s in Boston (November 21, 1838), where we made preparations for following your father and beginning housekeeping in Brunswick. We stopped at Amboy for a few days where we had a most cordial welcome and sailed for Savannah on December 17th on the ship Milledgeville. Our passage was rough and unpleasant, especially around Cape Hatteras (where the ship went to pieces the next voyage but one) and we were met at the dock at Savannah by your father who took us to the Pulaski House, the only hotel of note in the place. We passed three weeks very pleasantly in this city, interested in the different phase of life we saw there and then your father came for us and took us to Brunswick, to the Oglethorpe House, so named in honor of Lord Oglethorpe one of the early settlers of Georgia. It was a very uninteresting, desolate structure where we waited until he succeeded in obtaining an unfinished bowling alley which was soon converted into a very pleasant dwelling. The entrance to my room was through the parlor and to the other rooms from the piazza. A very large and tall magnolia tree rose far above our dwelling and yellow jasmine grew over an old tree in great beauty and luxuriance not far away, but there was no house near. Snakes hissed under the floor and rats gamboled over our heads, rattlesnakes also inhabited the wood close to the house. Beautiful little green lizards darted across the parlor floor, but we did not object to these graceful, harmless creatures. One day, little Willie, then about nineteen months old, was playing on the piazza when a large snake about three feet long was seen making his way direct to him. We had no man in the house, but fortunately one came by just then and killed him for us. The sand flies were very distressing; your grandmother suffered so much from them that she was obliged to poultice her hands. Your father was out on the line, but at this juncture your Uncle William who was engaged on a railroad in Georgia, came to make us a visit and was exceedingly useful. He sent off twenty miles for a physician and her Scollay was born February 25, 1839.
Brunswick was selected on account of its harbor, which was I believe, the best on the southern coast, but it had no back country to sustain it; almost all of our provisions came from Boston, and we found it impossible to get proper food for the baby and for me. Poor Scollay wilted under the heat of the climate and we left in haste for the North in order to save his life. Your father had left a little before for Boston, having been asked if he would like to take the Superintendence of the Boston & Worcester R. R. Mr. Jas. F. Curtis, the last Superintendent had just been killed by the contact of his head with the iron pillar of a bridge about which he had repeatedly cautioned others. At the midst of his grief at his brother’s death, my dear Uncle Curtis was mindful of your father’s interests and wrote immediately offering his influence to enable him to gain the situation. Although your father preferred greatly to make a railroad rather than attend to the details incident to the care of one, he was much pleased to return to Boston, especially as the company who were employing him had failed and left him minus a sum which was then of consequence to us. He returned to Boston in April 1839, leaving me to dispose of our household effects and bring home the family, with the assistance of your grandmother, which was very valuable. We went for the summer to the old brick tavern in West Newton and while walking about the place your grandmother was attracted by a small lot of land, an acre and a quarter, which was surrounded on three sides by a double row of pine trees. A small, unused schoolhouse stood on a little knoll. The situation pleased her and your father so much that he said “Mother, if you will build a house here, my family shall live with you every summer.” This enabled her to do so. Your father engaged a house for the winter on High Street, and your brother Arthur was born there October 21, 1840.
After two years, we decided to give it up and we boarded for one winter at Mrs. Marquard’s, and another at Mrs. Fuller’s on Franklin Street, but then concluded to pass the whole year in West Newton. Your father enjoyed having us there and for him the Sunday’s were delightful. He drove us to Waltham to hear the sermons and to Watertown to hear Mr. Weiss, and generally sang the greater part of the way. At a time of financial panic, his salary had been reduced with those of the other officers and, with four children, we were obliged to live with great economy. He had now an invitation to take charge of the Lowell R. R. with a larger salary than the Boston & Worcester had ever given him and with fewer vexations attending it. His strong attachment to a railroad which he had helped to make, produced a strong unwillingness to leave it and when the matter was laid before the Directors, they found that rather than lose his services, they had best restore his former salary and make up to him what had been taken away. There needed nothing more to make him feel that he might stay with them.
Gertrude was born in your grandmother’s house August 19th, 1842, and
Lucy W. on April 14th, 1845, and we now found the family too large for
your grandmother and the house, so we moved to an unpretending old house
owned by Mr. Kilburn, on the opposite side of the road. It had for
the boys great attractions of barn and corn barn, from the latter your
Uncle William, to tease us, gave it the name; not allowing me to take advantage
of some stately elms which overshadowed it. We passed here two very
pleasant years until your father was attacked by Typhoid Fever, from which
he had a very lingering recovery, as, under the old regime, starving was
considered essential. Before he had regained his strength, he was
solicited by some prominent gentlemen in Boston, stockholders in the Baltimore
& Ohio R. R., to go to take charge of that important road. He
was reluctantly persuaded to do so. As soon as his resignation was
known, a number of gentlemen invited him to a public dinner at which they
expressed their appreciation of his character and talents and the Directors
of the Boston & Worcester R. R. presented him with a large silver pitcher
and a very massive and beautiful cake basket on March 16, 1849. On
the 23rd of March the employees of the road to the number of two hundred
and fifty met him in the Hall over the passenger station and after expressing
regrets and gratitude for numerous acts of good will, presented him with
a complete service of ten pieces of silver and some small ones. These
gentlemen, Mr. George Bemis, Mr. Horace Williams and Mr. Emery Twichell
requested him to sit for a crayon portrait, which they desired to present
to Mrs. Parker. As there was not time for this, one lately made was
copied by the artist.
Your Aunt Mary and I accompanied your father to Baltimore and stayed one week with him. I could not take the family on as your brother Frank was too young to take the risk of taking him to a southern city, but your father felt the separation from us all very keenly. I was not aware that it required more physical strength than he had then to bear the intense heat of the summer, where the nights were as hot as the days. To make himself acquainted with the details of a long road and to cope, as far as he was able, with the latent spirit of rebellion which was aroused “by a Yankee” being appointed when there were so many Baltimoreans who could have filled the place quite as well.”
In October your Aunt Lizzie Whitwell joined me and we all went off joyfully to be again with the dear head of the house and to solace some of his cares. We found individuals most kind and hospitable, but in his official capacity every possible obstacle was put in his way and deficiencies, which could not be guarded against, were exaggerated to prove the “inefficiency” of the Superintendent. Your father’s health began to give me great uneasiness and as your Uncle Dr. Bigelow was passing through Baltimore, I asked him to give me his opinion in regard to it. He soon saw that there was serious trouble in his lungs and advised a sea voyage. On applying to the Directors, he found them, very naturally, unwilling to grant it as they did not appreciate the necessity, but through the kind representations of Mr. John H. Latrobe, they changed their views, and to your father’s surprise, not only granted three months absence but continued his salary at that time.
Your grandmother Parker very kindly offered to take Gertrude and Frank during our absence (for he wished me to go with him). Your grandmother Whitwell took Lulu and the three boys were sent to Mrs. Ellis Allen in Medfield. We sailed from New York in the packet “Victoria” in order to a long time on the sea, and at the end of a fortnight his cough and gone. I think the circumstance that the ship was loaded with turpentine contributed to his recover. The air of the cabin was heavy with us, and although we were on deck as much as the weather would allow, I had a headache nearly all the four weeks we were on board. We landed at Portsmouth and went across to the Isle of Wight, but a persistent rain interfered with our enjoyment. Carisford Castle was very interesting in itself independent of its associations with the unfortunate Charles the 1st. (See typewritten journal of travel.) We visited many places in England and Scotland, went into Wales, France, Belgium and Germany and returned home on the steamer “Niagara”, in company with Mr. William H. Prescott, the historian, who added much to our pleasure, and I read aloud to him as his eyesight was very feeble. We reached New York September 27, 1850 and after visiting Boston and Perth Amboy, I took the family back to Fayette Street where my poor husband was struggling to keep house in addition to all his other labors. We stayed here two years and then moved to Saratoga Street where Effie was born October 10, 1852.
Your father suffered much from dyspepsia, occasioned by anxiety and too much work, and felt deeply the annoyance - Page 12 ? –
should do better by myself. Your father had been at Jersey City but a few months when he was elected Superintendent of the Panama R. R. and after many sad consultations he decided to accept the office. In January 1861 he left us to go to Aspinwall. The separation for so long a time and the great distance was a heavy trial and almost at the last moment he said to me “If you wish me to stay I will.” But there seemed to be no alternative and I was resigned to his going because I knew the home could never be what it had been when given up to a school and it would have distressed him to see me worn by the fatigue and worry it must bring with it. As he had now the prospect of a good salary he wished me to give it up at once, but that could not be as I had made all arrangements with the parents to carry it on. From your father’s diary I quote his first impressions of the Isthmus. January 11, 1861, “I find Aspinwall quite as pleasant and promising as I expected, the natives picturesque, the houses Floridian, the hotel ditto with the bar and billiards in the foreground. Our cottage and Mess House delightfully situated on the ocean beach, the surf constant with a daily tide of fourteen inches.”
On the 12th of April Fort Sumter was bombarded and evacuated on the 14th of the same month. On the 19th our troops were fired upon while passing through Baltimore and the first blood was shed of the rebellion. My school ended for the year June 28th and on July 5th I took Effie to Amboy to meet your father, but there was no steamer there to bring him home. Frank joined us there on the 24th in Zouave costume, and on August 2nd your father arrived there from Aspinwall. On the 9th we all left Amboy for home and on the 19th your father went on business to West Point, opposite which were some iron works. We saw, for the first time, the ludicrous stag dance, and then went to Saratoga for a few days, reaching home September 1st. On the 3rd Arthur re-entered college without conditions and re-joined his own class, a remarkable feat, showing much power and perseverance. On the 19th your father returned to Aspinwall, and not long after the school began again.
Your father returned from Aspinwall early July, Arthur graduated from Harvard College on the 16th and two days after applied for a commission in the Army. He had been very desirous to go to the war as soon as it began, but in the absence of your father, I expressed to him that he had best finish his collegiate course, and gain his degree, after which he could do whatever seemed to him wisest. As there was at this time no vacancy for an officer, he enlisted as a common soldier July 21st in the 33rd Massachusetts Infantry, under Colonel Maggie and was immediately made orderly sergeant. Your father, Frank and I, went to visit him in the camp at Lynnfield and soon after that, while I was passing a few days at my Uncle’s, Mr. Curtis, your Aunt Margaret took me to see him again, and Mr. Edward A. Flint, who was also staying at the house. Dear Aunt Margaret did not forget to take a basket of goodies to the young soldier. Arthur marched off on the 14th of August with his regiment and your father left us nine days after for Aspinwall. In September the school began again, notwithstanding the remonstrance of your father that I should give it up, but it seemed to me unadvisable and he acquiescence. In October my son Will with Typhoid Fever and was confined to his room until November 27th, Thanksgiving Day. Frank passed the winter at Mr. Mile’s school in Brattleboro, Vermont.
February 1st dear Grandmother Parker died. She was one of the best of women and had adopted your father and myself and our children as her own. Her loss to her husband was inexpressively great, but he bore it bravely. Your Aunt, Katie Kearney, who had known her in their girl days, was so affected by her death, that although in her usual health, she failed rapidly and died the day after her early friend and sister. Gertrude and I went on to be present at the two funerals which took place on consecutive days. The weather was bitterly cold.
March 3rd, Arthur was made 2nd Lieutenant and was in the decisive and dreadful battle of Gettysburg, but not as an active combatant. Nevertheless, the shells were continually bursting near, and the comrade next to him was instantly killed by one of them. Arthur’s bravery and presence of mind did not desert him, he prepared some food and offered to share it with the others, but they preferred to wait until a more quiet time. Soon after this battle, owing to the kind representations of your Uncle Courtland, General Mead, your father’s cousin, gave him a position on his staff and allowed him a short furlough to come home. My school ended on the 26th of June so we had our house once more to ourselves. It was a great relief to me although there had been a great many things which were very pleasant. Some of the girls were children of those whom I had taught at Mr. Emerson’s before my marriage, and all were affectionate, willing to study and attached to each other. Tears were shed when I announced my intention of closing the school and one exclaimed sorrowfully, “We shall never all be together again.” We had a picnic in your grandmother’s yard and they presented me with a beautiful gold watch as a testimony of their love.
Arthur arrived on the 13th of August and your father the next day. As soon as the news of Arthur’s visit reached Scollay and Frank at North Conway, they hired a wagon as the cars did not run on Sunday from there, joined the train and were with us on Monday morning. Our whole family, consisting of father, mother and seven children, with the addition of Robert Richards, who was staying with us, dined together on that day for the last time, and in the afternoon of August 17th, Arthur left us to return to the headquarters of General Meade, Scollay accompanying him as far as New York.
On the 23rd of August, Arthur wrote to tell us of his safe arrival, the last letter we ever received from him and about ten days after we were alarmed by the following paragraph in the newspaper. “Lieutenant Parker of General Meade’s staff is supposed to have been captured by guerillas. He left headquarters to visit the 33rd his former regiment, and departed from thence on his return. He has not since been heard from.”
You must all of you remember the distress and anxiety which this announcement caused us. Your grandfather and Uncle Cortland used every possible means to discover what had become of our dear young soldier, and your father sent money and clothing in case he had been taken prisoner. But all was in vain. General Meade used his endeavors also, without success and it was not until many weary and anxious months that we learned his fate. He had been to visit his former regiment and returning to headquarters, deviated from the R. R. where pickets would have insured his safety, encountered nine armed men in the Federal uniform, and on being told to surrender, put spurs to his horse and was shot down immediately. This we learned from an officer, who afterwards encountered these same guerillas and surrendered to them, on which he was told had he not done so he would have shared the same fate of young Parker of General Meade’s staff.
Arthur’s death was a hard trial to us all, the first break in our family circle. He was a noble-hearted, unselfish fellow, of a very affectionate disposition, and an unusually fine scholar, to which was added a handsome face and an athletic body, thoroughly trained by gymnastic exercises. We had hoped so much from him, but we know he died in the noble cause of preserving the union of his country and why should our son be spared to us when so many other parents were called to give up their best and dearest.
On the 21st of August our eldest son, Will went to camp at Readville as 1st Lieutenant in the 2nd Massachusetts Calvary under Colonel Lowell. He had proposed to go much earlier but your father did not approve. The time seemed now to have arrived when he felt that every able bodied man should do his part in the struggle and although nothing could be more opposite than war to his education and feelings. He could no longer stay at home when his country required his services.
September 25th, our son Scollay left us to report at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, and was ordered to Cairo, where he was put on the “Ratter” as the only surgeon. He was an ardent patriot, but bodily weakness prevented him from bearing arms. The war broke out while he was engaged in his medical studies, but he immediately volunteered to go south in the ship “Daniel Webster”, with a number of ladies, gentlemen and nurses to bring home the soldiers who were suffering from fever. He came back so exhausted and emaciated that he was unwilling to shock me by his appearance and therefore stopped at your grandfather’s in Perth Amboy to recoup his strength.
Your father had been very desirous for some time, that as soon as the school ended, I should take the family to Europe, where he thought he could join us in his vacation as easily as in Boston, but it was impossible for me to put the ocean between my children while they were exposed to the dangers of war, and it was decided that the girls and I should go to your father in Aspinwall as soon as the weather would allow. I have omitted to say that Scollay, in his earnestness to be of some use to his country went to be examined as hospital steward, a rank little above that of servant. As he had not finished his studies he did not suppose he was capable of anything more responsible, but the physicians after examining him for that grade said, “Why don’t you go as Assistant Surgeon?” Upon this they examined him further and passed him, although he wanted a year of finishing. He was afterwards put with his medical studies on the “Rattler” with no one over him. The ship was cruising between Natchez and Vicksburg. In the autumn the house at No. 37, W. Cedar Street was sold. Effie and I went to stay with your Grandfather Parker until we sailed for Aspinwall and I asked your Aunt Margaret to take Gertrude and Lucy to board with her in Newark until we should all go away.
Frank came to see us at Amboy, he looked so pinched with cold and so thin that I thought a warmer climate would benefit him and I obtained permission to take him with us. On the 13th of January we went aboard the “Ocean Queen” and had a month but cold voyage. We found Mr. and Mrs. Augustus Schultz as passengers and were very much pleased with them. On the 16th we took our convoy and were much relieved from the feeling of solitude on the wide waters. The hills of San Domingo looked beautiful, their green and misty outlines defined against the sky. Our convoy had left us when we had passed the Islands, hoisting her flag and whistling loudly, she then turned around and went back to Cape Haytien to await the arrival of another steamer. ON the 23rd we reached Aspinwall and found your father waiting to receive us. He took us in a baggage car to the Mess House, where the officers of the railroad have their meals where we breakfasted, and from thence we walked to our cottage, which looked to us exceedingly attractive. It consisted of two rooms below and above and had no chimney, and was made in New York then set up in Aspinwall. It was on the shore of the Caribbean Sean, the beach on two sides and was cooled by the trade winds which blow regularly at this season at 10 a.m.
January 30th, Frank’s birthday, 16 years old. He is a great blessing, upright, true and very affectionate, with quick perceptions and great capabilities, wanting only greater strength of body to accomplish almost anything he might desire. In February we had letters which made us feel that we must give up our darling Arthur, God be thanked for his purity of character and his ardent patriotism, and his warm affection for us all, ought we not be grateful that he is safe forever.
On the 4th of March we sailed for Central America on the “Guatemala” called the “Queen of the Pacific” with Captain Dow. It was the freight steamer belonging to the Panama R. R. Company and your father, wishing to see how the business was conducted, went in her and also took us with him. The Captain was very attentive, and the Purser, Remon, full of delight on having ladies aboard. The scenery was fine in many places and interesting in all. Panama Bay is often compared to that of Naples. We touched at Punta Arenas, a background of mountains sets off the picturesque huts of the village, with its groves of cocoanut trees. Your father and Frank went on shore and brought Effie a beautiful little squirrel presented by Dona Teresa Ansoateguy. The next day we stopped at Realjo, in Nicaragua, and passed the volcanic mountain Conchagua, which was quite high, with a large cavity at the top, on which large trees were growing; while all around was bare.
We next reached La Union, a lovely spot in Nicaragua, then Libertad, then the port of San Salvador and in the evening the volcano Izalco, which put up at intervals red hot stones. At San Jose de Guatemala all our passengers left us, and were drawn ashore through the surf by a hawser. There I saw, for the first time, cartwheels made from the solid section of a tree. On the return trip your father and Frank went ashore at Acajutla. The access is difficult as one must be drawn up to the mole in a chair. The entrance to La Union is very interesting; we passed between islands which rose abruptly from the sea. The village, being surrounded on three sides by mountains, is very hot. There Effie went to ride with Mr. Remon on a fine mule, lent her by Senor Contado and she was first made aware of the Spanish custom of offering a sue dispossession, any article which may be promised. She was very much disturbed when this favorite animal, belonging to his son was to be sent on board our ship, but the Captain understood that the phrase merely meant, “I am glad you like it”, and quieted her fears. We left Corinto on the 10th and here Effie lost her little pet, who, in alarm, jumped through the Port Hole, but at Punta Arenas Mrs. Ansoatiguy gave her another.
On the 20th we reached Panama, having had a most delightful voyage. Your father’s enjoyment in having his family with him and in freedom from the daily routine of care, was very pleasant, and to us all was new and charming. We were absent from our cottage sixteen days.
March 26th, we all went to see the burning of Judas. A figure stuffed with crackers and other explosives was suspended across the street and afterwards set on fire. As it fell to the ground the crowd scrambled for the money which was said to be in its pockets. It was a sad spectacle, but curious and interesting.
In April we had a visit from Mr. and Mrs. Brady, and their son Sam, all of whom we liked very much. Lucy amused herself in the evenings with finding hermit crabs and making them go out of their shells, which they had probably acquired by force. One of these shells was so handsome that the owner was sent away to make a new selection while we kept his former dwelling. Mr. Valiente amused us by saying to Lucy, “Your face look like marry soon.” We had a pleasant visit to the Island of Tobago.
April 14th, we went to a play performed by the sailors on board the British ship of war the “Devastation”. It was got up by Dr. Bogg, the surgeon of the ship who took great pains to drill the sailors. Some of them, of course, were obliged to take women’s parts, and it was amusing to see their enormous waists and bare necks and arms. As we approached the ship in the Bay of Panama, the band struck up “Yankee Doodle” to welcome us. The tide only served us for our return to Panama at 12 mid-night and 4 a.m. The play took so long that there was no time for dancing before that time, so we felt it our duty to remain until 4 a.m. We enjoyed the evening very much. Dr. Bellows’ wife and son passed the day with us.
April 17th, our dear Frank sailed for California, on the “Constitution” with Commodore Watkins.
On the 22nd, Effie planted a cocoanut sent her by Mr. Meeken.
May 2nd, a letter from brother Cort obliged us to give up all hope of seeing our dear Arthur again. It is a great blessing that we are able to be with my dear husband, and that the novelty of the scenes around us helps to take off our thoughts from dwelling too much on our loss. Few mercies call for more thankfulness than a friend safe in Heaven. “It is not everyone that overcometh” says Reverend J. Hamilton.
May 21st, your father had an attack of fever and I persuaded him to refrain from going to the office, but telegrams came to him so frequently that he said he must go and attend to them. Admiral Penzon had come from Spain with several ships and anchored at the Chinca Islands off the coast of Peru, on account of a debt to Spain by the Peruvians of which the payment had long been delayed. The islands abounded in guano, from which Peru derived its principal resources. The Peruvians were exceedingly indignant and the Spanish minister, Senor Salazar finding his position not only uncomfortable, but dangerous, embarked with him with the intention of getting up a mob in Aspinwall and securing his papers as well as taking his life. Mr. Lotten happened to be in Panama while they were sending telegrams across to prepare for this. They soon were obliged to give up this part of their program, and could not go to Aspinwall until 7:00 o’clock the next morning. Mr. Nelson and Colonel Totten sent Senor Salazar over in a hand-car worked by two Negros. At 4:00 a.m. your father had a company of soldiers in readiness to receive him, but their aid was unnecessary and they were quietly escorted to a British man-of-war before his enemies could arrive. This event created quite a sensation in our quiet life. The next event of interest was the arrival of Captain Ammon of the Navy with a large number of Marines (I think 150) for a ship at Panama. A mutiny broke out on board and he and the boatswain were the only officers in charge. They did all they could before resorting to force, but the men were so unmanageable that the Captain was obliged to fire and kill two of them before the rest could be sufficiently subdued to be put in irons. The Captain and boatswain behaved with great bravery and coolness and as soon as the ship touched the wharf the former came up to your father to ask for a train across the Isthmus that he might transfer to their own ship these very troublesome passengers. Of course his request was granted. The poor Captain, on his return home, was tried by a Court Martial and honorably acquitted.
On the 26th, Frank came back from California, having been to the Mariposa trees and climbed one hundred feet on the largest one of which the bark had been taken off, sent to England, and set up there, exciting the comment that it was a Yankee trick and could never have grown so large.
On the 27th, all of us, excepting your father, came home on the “Ocean Queen”. Mr. Dray sent me a Titi Monkey and a barrel of pineapples and Mr. Nelson a stereoscope. The little Titi was a mustard colored Marmoset, and was a great pet. Once, in going from New York to Boston I kept him on my arm, covered by my large sleeve and the little creature afterwards cried whenever I wished to put him in his cage.
A nephew of Archbishop Hughes came on board very ill, and died after a few days. The ship was stopped an hour opposite the Island of Mara, in Guana, and he was buried there.
On the 17th of June we arrived in New York and went immediately to Amboy which looked its loveliest with its roses and sweet grape flowers. Gold was at this time so high that I sold $200 for $397 in bank notes. Gertrude and I went to Boston in a few days, she conveys with Bessie Whitwell and soon after Lucy, Frank, Effie and I followed them. About this time Scollay left to join the Glanensa.
On the 30th, mother, Effie and I left Boston for New York, but your father could not meet us as we expected, on account of the dangerous illness of Mr. Totten, with Yellow Fever. I received for $250 gold, $550.50 in bank notes.
September 9th, Scollay and ship was sent to convoy the California steamer through the Islands, from fear of frontical attacks. In October my dear Uncle Charles Pelham Curtis died. He was a life-long friend to me and very kind to your father, who came home to Amboy at this time where I was waiting for him, and we went together to Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington. General Stevenson would not allow us to go to Harper’s Ferry as the road was dangerous. On the 25th of October we took our winter quarters at Mrs. Cleverley’s in Ashburn Place where your Grandmother was. Your Aunt Lizzie had a room near us in Joy Street. Your father returned alone to Aspinwall. I felt much anxiety about Gertrude and was relieved to hear from Dr. Clark that she had no heart trouble. We all felt very sad that your father was so lonely, but feared we might impose upon the kindness of the R. R. Company by going so soon again, and we also felt that Effie should go to school, the two other girls wished to take lessons in singing and on the guitar.
On the 1st of February, President Lincoln issued the Proclamation of
Emancipation. On the 12th of February your brother Will arrived from
Winchester with a wounded foot. I was just preparing to send Frank
to help him home, when, on coming down to breakfast, I had the great satisfaction
of seeing him on the sofa in our parlor. Dr. H. J. Bigelow attended
him, but it was six weeks before he could go back, and then not entirely
well. Scollay was at this time at Tampa Bay with his ship.
$1000 in gold sold for $1,495 in greenbacks. On the 2nd of April
the news came of the taking of Richmond and we had great rejoicing, speeches
in the State House and the churches. King’s Chapel opened its doors
for a special service of praise and Thanksgiving. Alas! On
the 14th of the same month came the account of the assassination of our
good President, and the whole scene was changed, and houses and churches
and streets were draped in mourning.
In May I went to Dartmouth College with Frank to see if it would be best to send him there. From Hanover we went to Amboy and from thence to General Russell’s Military School in New Haven. Gold $240 sold for $334.50 greenbacks. Your father chose to pay $720 in taxes, but no one obliged him to do so. Effie made a visit to Miss Sarah Clarke at Newport. Will returned from the Army and Scollay came home, having passed his examinations and obtained his M.D. In September, Frank went to the school at New Haven, and in October we gladly welcomed your dear father.
On the 15th of November your Uncle Cortland and a detective officer accompanied your father and me to Virginia to search for the grave of our dear Arthur. We went through Philadelphia and Washington to Catlett’s Station. Here everything bore the mark of desolating war. Some of the huts of the soldiers were still standing with weeds growing in the crevices and half burnt brands in the rude fireplace of stones. This was the same at Manassas and at 1:00 p.m. took the train for Boston Station. Colonel Conger, our guide, found a wagon and an old ambulance and we followed the road which our dear Arthur took, but could not find the place where he was killed. Everyone was afraid to show any knowledge of the matter and those we enquired for by name were all absent. We took the precaution to say that no one was to be called to account for his death. We passed the night at Mrs. Gibson’s at Fleetwood, as her plantation was called. She was a very sweet old lady who had been hospitable to both parties, although her affections were on the southern side. Our detective continued to search, but to no avail. We reached New York on the 20th. On the 26th the whole remaining family dined together at your Grandfather’s in Amboy. On December 1st, your father, Gertrude, Lucy, and Effie and I sailed for Aspinwall in the “Henry Channing”. The weather was excessively cold, no heat in our rooms. It grew milder the next day and when we arrived at Aspinwall we landed in a garden of roses and cocoanut trees. We had found among the passengers Mr. Louis McLean and his sister Mary. They were very agreeable, and we waited to see them take the train for Panama. Our cottage looked fresh and inviting with its new coat of paint and it was pleasant to find the garden fenced in and begun. I had forgotten the sound of the cocoanut palm leaves against the windows, which used, at first, to make me think there was a violent shower, as well as the waves on the shore so near to us. With so many dear ones around me it seemed more like home than any other place.
Monday, December 25th, we all dined on the “Colorado”, by invitation of Commodore Watkins, with Mr. and Mrs. Henderson (he was English Consul), Mr. and Mrs. Corwine, and Miss Sternberg, Mr. and Mrs. Gibbons, and Dr. Cook, a party of twenty. The dinner was excellent, but it was rather tiresome to sit for three and a half hours on a seat which had no back.
January 14th, we had the first service, since dedication, in the beautiful stone church built by the Panama R. R. Company for its employees. Mr. Temple officiated. We are enjoying a visit from Mr. and Mrs. Bartlett, the former a prominent director of the road. When I said to my husband last year that the only objection to our going to Aspinwall was the inability to take exercise, he said, “Next year you shall have a carriage.” Accordingly, we found one on our arrival. An oblong box without springs, set upon a dray, was drawn by a splendid great mule from Jamaica. Your father drove us the first time it was used and the colored population with great difficulty restrained their mirth, but when he smiled upon them they burst out with hands and tongue, “Oh, Mr. Parker, Oh Mr. Parker!” The next time Dr. Fluge drove Mr. and Mrs. Bartlett, Miss Hoadley, ourselves and some others without any particular reference to the comfort of the passengers. When we reached home Mrs. Bartlett thanked me for the drive, but added, “I would not have missed it for $50.00, but I would not have taken it again for $100.00!”
In February we had a pleasant excursion to the Pearl Islands with Mr. Hoadley and his party. Beautiful pearls are not infrequently found there. Captain Stout, an old and very ugly man sang “Black-eyed Susan” addressing himself to Effie who was so alarmed by his dramatic presentation of the song that she hastily turned her back upon him. We also went with the same party to Porto Ballo and found the fortifications very fine and interesting. They were made by the Spaniards taken from them by Admiral Vernon. General Washington’s elder brother John was with him when he gained possession of the place and named his own place in Virginia, Mt. Vernon in honor of the Admiral.
In April there was a terrific explosion of nitro-glycerin on board the Liverpool steamer “Europeans” accompanied by a deafening noise. The destruction and confusion was terrible. Some bodies were blown into the air, some buried under the debris, those of the Captain, First Officer and Surgeon were rescued from the burning steamer and it was then towed out into the stream by the Captain of the Tamur. It was a bold deed as great fears were entertained of another explosion when the flames should reach the powder magazine, which they did later in the day. The roof of the handsome and massive freight house belonging to the Panama R. R. was raised and then dropped into the interior so that the latter was completely wrecked as well as its self. The wharf was completely shattered and then took fire. A large number of houses in the neighborhood were seriously injured. The windows of our cottage, so far from the scene, were broken, and our clock thrown on the floor. Twelve bodies were taken into the church where the burial service was read and they were then interred at Monkey Hill, with the exception of the Captain of whom the “Masons” took charge. More bodies were afterward recovered. I was taking a ride on horseback at the time and saw the terrible explosion as I was within one-hundred-fifty feet of it. My pony scared but I turned him away and he went on quietly. I must have had a concussion of the brain for I found, after reaching home that I had been thrown and helped out by a gentleman, but could remember nothing. As we could not stay much longer in Aspinwall on account of the nearness of the wet season, it was determined that Gertrude, Lucy and I should go to California to which we were given free passage. It seemed to us that we should not strain the courtesy of the R. R. by taking more than three, and Effie was sent to Cousin Bessie in New York, under the care of Captain Dow. It was hard for us to let her go and very hard for her to leave us, but she made no complaint. Gertrude, Lucy and I sailed for California on the “Golden City” more than seven hundred passengers. At Panama we met Major Flint who was a friend of Pelham and Tom Curtis, who on this account, at first, attached himself to our party and was a most agreeable addition. On the 6th of May we reached Acapulco, then besieged by French troops. Fighting had been going on all the morning, but hostilities were suspended during the stay of the American steamer. Still we were not allowed to go on shore as it might be hazardous. The town is small and the bay land-locked by high mountains. A part of our voyage it was so cold the passengers resorted to dancing, and wore overcoats to keep them warm. On the 14th we arrived outside the “Bar” and went on deck to see the “Golden Gate” of the magnificent bay of San Francisco. We saw Fort Point, the Presidio and Fort Alcatraz, the last most picturesquely placed on a small island rock. We found the Lick House a very comfortable hotel. On the 22nd we went by carriage with Miss Mary McLean and Major Flint to the Warm Sulfur Springs and to the Almaden Quicksilver mines. June 1st, took a journey with Major Flint and Miss McLean to Copperoppolis and the big trees and were gone seven days. June 9th, left San Francisco to return to the Isthmus and reached the anchorage on the 22nd after a very hot voyage. We heard that Scollay had passed his examinations and is now M.D. June 24th, John Baptists Day. The natives have a singular custom, quite new to us. Your father went to the post office and encountered two men with a pail of water. He succeeded in passing them, but met two women who would have “baptized” him had he not given them a piece of money.
July 7th, we had some bad news of the illness of our dear little Effie at Mrs. Bartlett’s at Barrymore on the Hudson, and left Aspinwall with heavy hearts, but on reaching New York of the 21st we found the dear child quite well. We made a visit at Perth Amboy and from there went to Princeton for some weeks. On the 3rd of September we took rooms in Bulfinch Street, in order to be near your dear Grandmother. Lucy was engaged to Major Flint with the approbation of her father and mother.
Early in November your father came home to enjoy his yearly vacation. I had thought it would be best on various accounts, to remain with the girls in Boston, and he had agreed to the plan, but before he left us he said to me quite sadly, “I wish you would go to me this winter.” Certainly I will if you think it best and with this expectation he left us. I gave up the rooms we had engaged and my dear sister Mary urged me so strongly to let Effie stay with her and continue her school, that I could not refuse.
January 4th, I left Boston with Gertrude and Lucy, stayed a few days at Newark with your kind and hospitable Aunt Margaret and Uncle William Whitehead, and then went to Amboy to be a little while with your Grandfather. We sailed for Aspinwall on the 11th, on a very cold day. Passed Cuba on the 16th and also the Island of Nevessa, and arrived at our destination on the 19th. It was very delightful to be again with your dear father and to see how much he enjoyed his family and everything looked pleasanter than before. On the 29th while we were enjoying a lovely climate there was an unusually heavy fall of snow in Boston. Your father had a great deal of trouble in re-roofing the freight house. Men were sent out from Newport for the purpose. They were terribly exposed to the sun of course, and so much afraid of Yellow Fever that they drank copiously of whiskey as an antidote. It was not surprising that three of them died very soon. It was then discovered that the iron girders were not long enough and it must be taken down and roofed temporarily with wood, and nothing permanent could be attempted until the next season. In April we had a visit from Mr. Bard and his little boy. They came from Annandale on the Hudson on account of the boy’s delicate health. There was, after this, much alarm about Yellow Fever, but we kept ourselves cheerful and never asked about it, so that someone said it was a great relief to come to a house where it was not the topic of conversation. If your father had given away to alarm and sent away his family, I think there would have been a general stampede.
On the 4th day of May, your father sent us home. It was very hard to leave him to loneliness for so many months, but he was unwilling to expose us to the wet season, which was more injurious to women than to men. He was very unselfish and very brave and we had to acquiesce on his decision. We had a very happy winter together to look back upon. The girls rode often on horseback and saw a good many people. Mr. Temple, our clergyman was very kind and very fond of your father, who had frequent attacks of fever which did not last long. We reached New York on the 11th and found our dear Will Jr. waiting to receive us. After passing a few days at Newark, we went to Perth Amboy to see your dear Grandfather. Gertrude and Lucy made a short visit to Mr. Bard and Annandale and I went to Jamaica Plains for a while.
In July your Grandmother and Frank accompanied us to Princeton where we stayed until the middle of September when I took rooms at Mrs. Parker’s in Bowdin Street with the three girls. On the 13th of September Scollay wrote me that he had volunteered to bring a ship to Portsmouth with Yellow Fever patients on board. His relief had come and he had been honorably discharged from the service, but there was so much sickness at Vera Cruz that he knew a surgeon could not well be spared. His position on the Panama R. R. Freight steamer was waiting for him and he might lose it by the delay. I had been anxious about him for a long time, but in less than a fortnight I heard from him at Fortress Monroe, all the sick recovered except the Captain, who went on shore contrary to his warning and died in consequence. Scollay never told me that he himself took the fever and I did not know it until about two years after.
This was an act of perhaps greater heroism than is displayed in the battle where all circumstances combine to excite enthusiasm and cause the danger to one's self to be forgotten. Scollay came home with two months leave of absence and full pay. Left for Panama in about three weeks. On the 10th of December Major Flint arrived from California and on the 18th I went to Amboy as your father wished me to meet him there as he had business in New York which would detain him several days. On Tuesday, December 31st, Lucy W. Parker and Edward Austin Flint were married in King’s Chapel, which was beautifully decorated with greens for the Christmas celebration. Your father gave the bride away. After the wedding a small number of friends assembled at Mrs. Parker’s (our land lord on Bowden Street) and had a simple celebration. The day was unusually cold. Your father expressed so strong a wish that Gertrude and I should return with him to Aspinwall that we gave up our rooms and made immediate preparations. It was very hard to leave our beloved youngest child behind, but it seemed best that she should finish her education and she would be under the care of her Grandmother and Aunt Lizzie.
January 29th, your father, Gertrude and I were joined by Lucy and her husband, Will and Frank passed the night with us at Newark and the next day your father and I went to Amboy to see your Grandfather who looked a good deal changed. Your father left the next morning early, but I stayed as long as I could with the dear old man who with his lifelong gallantry almost insisted on walking with me to the station. After I had gone he said in a very sad voice, to Mary the cook, “I shall never see them again.” His words were prophetic for his long and useful and upright life was closed on the 1st of next April. His age was ninety-two years and one month. February 1st we sailed on the “Arizona”. The weather was fine, but cold and reached Aspinwall on the 9th. We were very glad to find Scollay on the wharf to welcome us. The next day we accompanied Lucy and her husband to the California steamer “O love and death, ye have sad partings in this changeful world.” The season was unusually wet. March 29th we had a sad scene with Mr. Baldwin. He rushed into our parlor in a state of extreme excitement, up to the sofa on which your father was lying, shook his fist in his face and spoke with great insolence. I took hold of his shoulders and led him out of the house without his making any resistance. It was the last struggle of the gentleman in his nature. Mr. Mason and Captain Dow came over from Panama and induced him to make a sort of an apology, which was very unsatisfactory to me. On the 15th of May Gertrude was asked to make one of a croquet party and it seemed best that she should not refuse. She was out in a slight shower and had a light attack of fever. Poor girl. She had very little health after that, for on her return to the north the east wind brought a severe chill and she suffered from the disease for eight years. I interested myself in cleaning and preserving a number of huge grasshoppers with flame colored wings under grey coverings. I gave away about thirty. The time came when your father was not willing to keep us longer in that climate. I felt so uneasy about him that I begged him to let me stay and to send home only Gertrude. She was not at all well, but with his usual unselfishness he would not consent. We left him on the eve of July 21st and passed a memorable night on the steamer which was cooling until just before we sailed at 6 o’clock the next morning. He was outside the cottage but a violent rain prevented us from seeing him. We reached Boston August 4th and would have gone immediately to Princeton, but Gertrude was too ill and we were obliged to wait several days. In New York I saw Mr. Hoadley and Mr. Joy and told them that my husband needed a vacation exceedingly. They were, as always, very kind and said they would gladly spare him, but they knew no one who could take his place. As I had previously talked with your father, having this in my mind and as I knew he thought well of Mr. du Bois, who was then at Panama, I mentioned his name. They readily agreed that he would take your father’s place during his absence. Your father’s answer, when they wrote to him was that “he could not possibly leave in the present state of affairs.” Soon after this a formidable washout occurred on the road which was so seriously injured as to delay all traffic. Your father was out directing the repairs for thirty-six hours, but with little food and sleep, and was then so ill that he was obliged to keep to his bed. Gertrude and I were to go to California to be with Lucy. As soon as I heard of his illness, I made preparations to go to Aspinwall. Will, Jr., came on to Princeton, Gertrude was quite ill, leaving him to bring her on as soon as she could be moved. I went to New York in order to be sure not to miss the steamer. Your father had written to me that he found he needed rest and would go with us to California. Most happily, Gertrude was able to join me and we sailed on the 9th of September. To our great delight your father was standing on the dock to receive us. While I was standing in the crowd on the deck, he made his way behind me and put his arms around my neck saying “I knew you would come.” This told me a great deal for he was not demonstrative before others and had evidently feared he might never see me again. He then said if I would wait a week he would go with us to California, but during that time we would not talk much as he had much to occupy his mind. Of course I respected his silence and asked no questions, expecting to have leisure and opportunity on the steamer. On the 23rd of September he had finished all his arrangements satisfactorily and seemed unusually peaceful and free from care, although quite feeble. Mr. Nelson came from Panama to talk with him and stayed so long that I went to sleep before the interview ended. We rose early in the morning and went to the office, expecting the steamer every hour. Standing surrounded by his friends on the piazza, he stepped inside to write a telegram when Mr. Baldwin, instigated by jealousy and fortified by brandy, stepped forward, fired his pistol twice and then put it to his own head. Your father lived but twenty minutes and could not have suffered much pain. He spoke but a few words. The wretched man who shot him lingered for three months in great agony. Every respect was paid to the memory of your father, even the British flag, contrary to general orders, was put at half-mast and the funeral at Panama was attended by everyone of any note in the place. His body was buried in the Foreign Cemetery in the presence of a great crowd. It is unnecessary for me to tell his dear children what a noble, conscientious and gifted man he was. His heart went out to all, but his deepest interest was with his own family.
Each child as it came was hailed with delight and with a love which grew stronger as he grew older. In a letter to Frank, dated January 1st, 1867, he says “Many happy returns on the day to my boys and girls who have so large a part of life yet to see. I can remember what I thought of life, as late as till you and Effie were ushered into it, how happy and blessed it had been, so happy that I was ready to live it over again. May it be so with all of you, even to the end of life. Live up to your opportunities and duties and it will be so.”
“Your affectionate Father”
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