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LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
REV. SETH CHANDLER,
STABLE AND OFFICE OF GEORGE DAVIS, Esq., ·
40 49 50 64 109 147 176 245 282 304
450 451 464 532 547 668
"Of all the affections of man, those that connect him with ancestry are among the most natural and generous. They enlarge the sphere of his interests; multiply his motives to virtue; and give intensity to his sense of duty to generations to come, by the perception of obligation to those that are past. In whatever mode of existence man finds himself, be it savage or civilized, he perceives that he is indebted for the far greater part of his possessions and enjoyments, to events over which he had no control; to individuals whose names, perhaps, never reached his ear; to sacrifices in which he never shared; and to sufferings, awakening in his bosom few and very transient sympathies.
To make a compilation of local annals is a humble employment; to justly review the occurrences and customs of other times is a difficult task; and yet it is the way by which to connect the present with the past, so as to give the existing actor an opportunity to understand his obligations to those who shall come after him, by his indebtedness to those who have gone before him.
Such a review, too, is calculated to awaken gratitude, by impressing the mind with the progress in the arts and comforts of life—which the advancing ages of civilization
*Quincy's Boston Centennial Address.
have made, and of which every new generation becomes the inheritor.
Minute local events—which are not of sufficient importance to be noticed by the general historian—are the facts upon which general history must essentially depend ; as one has said, "they are the mass of seeds from which the spirit of his narrative should be laboriously distilled.” Besides, it is a successful way of perpetuating the worthy deeds of men who, in every town and small community, have been distinguished for their usefulness, enterprise and valor, yet have not been sufficiently noted to obtain a place in more extended histories.
The lives of useful and patriotic men are none the less valuable, for the comparatively humble walk which they have pursued on earth; for it is the deep and increasing respect which crowns their memories that is silently and surely inspiring the masses with good purposes, awakening their energy, and exciting them to generous and worthy deeds. The events of a man's life, who has risen to any degree of eminence by the force of his own genius and enterprise, are always interesting and instructive, because they serve as a light and guide to others whose beginnings may be equally unpropitious. Daniel Webster has said, that "nobler records of patriotism exist nowhere,—nowhere can there be found higher proofs of the spirit that was ready to hazard all, to pledge all, to sacrifice all, in the cause of their country ,—than in the New-England towns."
Such are some of the purposes which town histories are designed to secure; and, hence, they have been loudly demanded and largely multiplied within the last few years. And, humble and unpretentious as their province is, they should not be slightly regarded, so important are the advantages to be derived from them. It is not, however, to be denied that great difficulties are necessarily encountered in the preparation of these histories. Many of the earlier town records are so imperfect and illegible that they rather perplex than enlighten the understandings
of those who consult them. Tradition is often found too vague and uncertain for confident reliance, and the threads by which the labyrinth of events may be traced are often broken, or irrecoverably lost. And, owing to the necessarily limited circulation of works of this character, the compiler must look for his reward in the reflection that he is performing an act of justice to past generations, and one of usefulness to those which are to come.
Dr. Johnson has said that "incident is the life of biography;" it is no less the life of history. There is, however, rarely any very striking incident connected with our town histories. The course of New Englanders has been generally even, quiet, unambitious—their progress gradual and certain. The perils attending the colonization and settlement of our country were not realized, to their full extent, in the inland towns. The soil of many of them was never stained with the blood of Indian warfare; and though the majority of them were connected, in some measure, with the events of the American revolution, the perils of that revolution were confined to a few years, and were borne with fortitude under the comforting hope of ultimate success. Their history must, therefore, be mainly filled with commonplace events, which have been enacted, from year to year with trifling variation. Indeed, with few exceptions, it may be said of the most of our inland towns, that they have but one history ;—similar trials, efforts, discouragements and hopes, having attended the settlement and growth of them all.
The labor attending such a compilation, and the benefits to be derived from its publication, at best, can ensure for it but a limited circulation and a temporary interest. When the antiquarian and the historian shall have noted its salient points, and when the descendants of that ancestry whose names and deeds it records—and of whom little is known, except what has come through the uncertain channel of tradition—shall have devoured its contents, its only place, if not consigned to the fate