OLD DARTMOUTH HISTORICAL SKETCH
Being the proceedings of the Meeting of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society, held at the Yacht Club House, South Dartmouth, on September 14, 1905.
A DAY IN DARTMOUTH, ENGLAND
by [Mrs.] A. H. Swift
FRIENDS DEDICATION OF THE FEARING MEMORIAL, FAIRHAVEN
[Note.—The "Old Dartmouth Historical Sketches" will be published by the society quarterly and may be purchased for ten cents each on application to the Secretary and also at Hutchinson's Book Store.]
Yacht Club House, South Dartmouth
September 14, 1905
The tenth regular meeting of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society was held at the Yacht club station, South Dartmouth, Thursday afternoon, September 14 at 2 o’clock. The members and their friends, who attended to the number of 200 or over, partook of a clambake served by Charles W. Howland in Laban’s Folly. At 3 o’clock the society was called together in the club house, the courtesies of which were extended by the yacht club. Introductory remarks were made by the president, William W. Crapo, after which an informal paper was read by Mrs. A. H. Swift, who recently returned from a trip abroad, in the course of which she visited Dartmouth, England. “A Day in Dartmouth” was Mrs. Swift’s subject, and at the close of her remarks she displayed some pictures of the old town.
The committee of arrangements was Charles W. Howland, William F. Read, and George O. Baker.
A Day in Dartmouth, England
By [Mrs.] A. H. Swift
Not having written a composition since the far away time of my school days, it has been somewhat difficult for me to collect my thoughts and put upon paper the hasty impressions of a summer day’s excursion; and, perhaps, it is wiser for me to acknowledge at once that had it not been for the very valuable assistance of one of your vice presidents, Mr. Tripp, who came most gallantly to the rescue and unearthed for me treasures of English county history which have long lain buried in the New Bedford public library, my memories of that day, unsupported by the solid historical facts which I was thereby enabled to glean, would have been all too vague to offer to the Old Dartmouth Historical Society this afternoon. For that day was simply one of pure enjoyment. I was not thinking of the historical society then, nor did I dream as we took the Exeter train for Dartmouth what an epoch-making expedition it was going to prove to me. My own data being so very insufficient, I must make the most of what I have and begin by saying that the very first thing we had to find out was at what time the tide was high in the Dart River. On that time the fate of the whole expedition hung. There was no trouble about trains. They went at all times and to all known parts of England, for Exeter is a great railway center. The tide, however, was another matter; that waited for no man; but I think man must spend considerable time in waiting for the tide if he is by way of planning excursions up or down any one of the little rivers which, rising among moors and hills of Devon and Somerset, make their way into the English Channel. On that day luckily the tide suited; the little river steamer left the Dartmouth quay at 4 p.m. and gave plenty of time for the journey and the chief sights of the town. Exeter is truly a fitting point of departure for the west country. She is the mother city and was the most important town in Devon and chief city of the west of England before Edward the Confessor transferred thither the see of Devon and Cornwall. She has also been for generations the headquarters of west country witchcraft, for the west is notoriously full of witches, and the White Witch of Exeter is the acknowledged chief of them all. But I am forgetting that our train has started. We look back for a last glimpse of the great cathedral, standing high on the ridge on which the city is built, encircled by trees and clustering houses, and soon we are speeding through the flat meadow lands and looking across the broad estuary of the Exe to Exmouth. We pass Powderhan Castle, seat of the Earl of Devon, and cradle of the great house of Courtenay. The train turns suddenly to the right and we are in Dawlish, a charming little seaside resort, well known in Thackeray’s time as headquarters for pretty children, pretty nurse-maids and retired army officers, but now supplanted by Torquay, 15 miles on. At Torquay we had a view of six men-of-war anchored in Tor bay, and of the Brixham fishing fleet, with its tawny red and brown sails. Brixham is now and has long been the chief fishing town of Devon, and if the old song can be relied upon the Brixham fishermen are noted for their sweet voices:
“In Brixham town so rare,
For singing sweet and fair,
None can with us compare;
We bear away the bell.
Extolled up and down,
By men of high renown,
We go from town to town
And none can us excel.”
In November, 1689, the fleet carrying the Protestant deliverer, William of Orange, approached the shores of Devon, and the story is that as the Prince was about to leave his boat he paused and said: “If I am welcome, carry me ashore;” whereupon a little “stuggy” man, stuggy being thickset, jumped into the water and carried him in on his back. The stone on which he first stepped is preserved on Brixham pier, and the inscription on it sets forth how “On this stone and near this spot William of Orange first set foot.” An amusing rhymed address, said to have been presented to him by the Brixhamites, runs thus:
“And please Your Majesty King William,
You be welcome to Brixham quay,
To eat buck horn and drink bohea,
Along with me.
And please Your Majesty King William.”
History vouches not for the truth of this doggerel welcome, but surely never in all history was the work of the invader so quietly done. No blood was shed. The inhabitants of the countryside silently gathered all through the day, coming from far and near to watch the landing of his troops. Fifteen thousand came ashore before evening. Already in secret meeting the county magnates had practically declared themselves for William, only a few were for supporting King James. Three days later William reached Exeter, having already been crowned King in the Market Place of Newton Abbot. There was a solemn service in the Cathedral, the choir singing the Te Deum for the safe arrival of the King and his army in England, while “sundry men with halberds” kept the aisles clear, that his Highness might not be “unduly thronged.” A glorious Revolution indeed. But Dartmouth is still are away and there is so much to see before we get there. Paignton is a little beyond Brixham; and there are the ruins of Paignton palace, an occasional residence of the Bishops of Exeter. There is standing today the old Bible Tower, so-called form its last episcopal occupant, Bishop Miles Coverdale, the translator of the Bible in 1535. We changed trains at Newton Abbot, whose clay pits furnish the clay for the Staffordshire potteries, and where one starts for excursions over Dartmoor. The town lies on the banks of the river Teign, where once were salt sheds, called there salterns, and salt was manufactured there as it still is here on the banks of our own little river. This salt manufacture was carried on from Saxon times until as late as the year 1692. Is it possible that we have picked up the dropped threads and that our salt works are carrying on the work begun at Teignmouth so many years centuries ago? At Bovey Tracy, the next station, the home of the ancient Tracy family, is the parish church of St. Thomas, built and dedicated to the memory of Thomas à Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, by Sir William Tracy, one of his murderers, in expiation of his crime. Two more stops and then glimpses of a blue river through the green trees and of wooded hills in the distance. The train passes over a deep ravine, on a high viaduct, and the railway comes to an end at the little town of Kingswear, so pretty and picturesque that we long to explore it; but Dartmouth lies directly opposite, and the little ferryboat waits for no one, so we hurry on board and for a moment are speechless with admiration, the scene is so lovely.
“Beautiful Dartmouth!”, Queen Victoria exclaimed when she first saw it, and we can only echo her words. The town lies before us rising picturesquely from the water’s edge, its scattered houses and rambling old streets climbing up the wooded slopes. Its apparently land locked harbor looks so like a large lake, one can scarcely believe that just beyond the green hills to the left, hardly a mile away, lies the open sea. As we are slowly ferried across, we look with interest, being rather nautical folk, at the various kinds of craft lying at anchor between the two towns. There are fishermen’s luggers and men of war; little pleasure boats and big steam yachts, whose little launches are darting about. A large white yawl passes us, tacking out to sea. Colliers are loading at the Kingswear docks, and a little upstream lie two old three deckers, discarded ships of the line, the Britannia and the Hindustan, where naval cadets are trained for his majesty’s service. They will soon cease, however, to be a feature of the landscape, for the new naval college, an imposing brick building to the right above the town, is nearly ready for use, and the three deckers will then be abandoned. It is hard to realize at once that Dartmouth is a place of such antiquity, that it is identified with so many important events of English history, and that it is perhaps the birthplace of a race of men, to whose love of a seafaring life and wild adventure, coupled with undaunted courage and a determination to carry all before them, England owes that supremacy on the sea that has been hers for so many centuries. In the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales, Chaucer’s “Shippeman” was of “Dartemouthe” and a fair specimen no doubt of the men of his class. “He knew well alle the havens that there were,
From Gootland to the Cape of Finnisterre.”
The encouragement given by Edward III to what, for want of a gentler term, can only be called piracy, did much to augment this fierce spirit. King Edward, so it is set forth in the “Libel of English Policie,” did devise that “Of English townes, three, Dartmouth, Plymouth and Fowey, should warre on petty Bretagne.” We can easily believe that the three noble seaports needed small encouragement to do what in fact they had been doing from time immemorial, but it must not be forgotten that on this foundation of generations of piracy and fierce sea fighting, the naval greatness of the days of Elizabeth was built. The Reformation added one more ingredient to the nature of these formidable sea dogs, the belief that God was with them, and that all of heaven’s forces were fighting on their side. “Lord, what shall I do now?” prays Robert Lyde, mate of the Friend’s Adventure, whose story is told in a quaint tract preserved in the British Museum, and the answer comes that “The Lord was pleased to put me in mynde of the Knife in my pocket.” What wonder when the need came and English seamen were called to defend her shores, that they proved more than a match for the Spanish invader. Even now the heart is stirred at the very mention of the names of Drake, Hawkins, the two Gilberts, Frobisher, Sir Richard Grenville, and at the thought of the brave sailor men who accompanied them on their perilous voyages. As we walk through the quaint streets of the town their memories haunt us. Here on the façade of one old timbered house hang their shields and armorial bearings, too bright today perhaps with the fresh paint and varnish of the restorer, but better so than left to fade into oblivion; and looking out on the little harbor from the windows of the old Ship Inn, we seem not to see the yachts and colliers, the Britannia and her consorts disappear from view, as memories of those far away days conjure up visions of other fleets that have sailed away from Dartmouth. We think of William Rufus setting out to burn and plunder the French coast, and of Richard Coeur de Lion and his band of crusaders starting forth against the Infidel. We fancy ourselves standing in the throng of Devon folk, who crowded on the little quay and watched with beating hearts and misty eyes the departure of the seven ships to join the fleet against the Armada in Plymouth sound. These ships were the Crescent, the Hart, the Elizabeth, the Roebuck, the Gabriel, the Phoenix, and the Samaritan. We can fancy, too, with what rejoicing these same watchers must have gathered on the quay to welcome the ships back again after the great fight was over and England saved from the greatest peril that has ever threatened her.
But the River Dart was not a point of departure only for marauding pirates and naval expeditions. Dartmouth has the honor of being the first port in Devon to send out a colonizing expedition to America. In 1583 Sir Humphrey Gilbert having obtained a patent from Elizabeth, took possession of Newfoundland, which was then a fishing station for all nations, and secured for Devon a preponderance of its fishing trade. A little later, another small but now world renowned expedition started out from Dartmouth. Two cockle shells, no larger than modern pilot boats, the Sunshine and the Moonshine, commanded by one known as “lovable John Davis,” passed out of the river’s mouth between the two old castles, and bending their sails, turned northward in search of that path to the Polar sea which men are seeking yet. Davis discovered the straits which bear his name in 1585, and brought great honor to his native town. Turning from the quay we wander to the old Butterwalk. Here the houses have protecting upper stories, supported by carved pillars, the whole forming a sort of covered piazza of singular interest. We climbed the stairs of one of these old time houses, by the kind fishmonger who lived below, to see the room where Charles the Second once held his court, a room richly paneled in old oak and bearing the royal arms over the fireplace. Here is another link in the chain which binds Dartmouth so closely with the history of England. The town, loyal to the king, and last in Devon to yield to Cromwell’s forces, finally submitted to Colonel Fairfax in 1646. Leaving the Butterwalk we pass through a winding street of old timbered houses and up a tortuous little lane to the church of St. Saviour, but pause before entering its portals and wander through the little church yard, filled with ancient graves. How many descendants of these long buried Tuckers, Giffords and Taylors are living among us today? The stones are green with age. Eagerly we scanned them, but could find no clue, nor could the elderly dame who showed us over the church throw any light on their family history. Possibly some families here may have the records, for these names belong to this country side as well as to that. The interior of the church is interesting and beautiful. It contains a wonderfully sculptured stone pulpit and a magnificently painted and carved rood screen. On the chancel pavement lies the brass effigy of old John Hawley, seven times mayor of Dartmouth, of whom it was said that he always kept the law, because he made it himself to suit the occasion. He lies between the brasses of his two wives, and is holding the hand of her on the right as though he loved her best. The hands of the other are folded in prayer and the date is 1408. Outside in the aisles and facing each other are the carved black oak seats, slightly raised, for the mayor and corporation, the other pews running at right angles to them. How I wished we might have been there on a Sunday to see these worthies in their high seats and using the beautiful service books which have been there no doubt for centuries. A gallery runs round three sides of the church over the aisles. That is of Elizabethan date and the panels in front are emblazoned with the arms of the merchant princes of the town. The earliest seal of the town represents a king standing in a ship, a crescent and a star on either side. As these were the badges of King John, it is supposed that the town charter, finally ratified by Henry III, was first given to Dartmouth by John. On leaving St. Saviour’s we had just time to drive to the castle at the harbor’s mouth and to visit the old church of St. Petrox. This drive must on no account be missed, for it is wonderfully beautiful. On the opposite shore stands Kingswear castle, and between the two castles in the good old pirate days stretched the iron chain which every night was drawn across to guard the entrance. We give a longing glance in the direction of Plymouth, really within walking distance if time permitted, then hurry back to the quay and step on board the Dart for our sail up the river. There is very little more to tell. I feel I have exhausted all my adjectives and must apologize if I venture to say “beautiful” again; and indeed, I cannot do justice to the charm of this little river journey. It was much too short, for the steamer can only go as far as Totnes, ten miles above. We pass the Britannia, where the cadets are at work on the decks and in the rigging, pass Greenaway House, at one time the home of Sir Walter Raleigh. There is a curious rock here, in mid-stream, called the Anchor Stone, where he used to sit and smoke his pipe, and where tradition has it, the shipmen used to convey their scolding or disobedient wives. An hour’s sojourn, when the tide was rising usually brought about a change of heart, and if it did not—the tide rose. The river winds with many bends and turns between wooded hills; we pass little villages on the banks, Dittesham, then Sandridge, where John Davis was born. The hay makers are out in the meadows; fishermen at the salmon weirs along the shore are pulling in their huge nets, and we see the fish flapping and struggling inside. Birds are singing and there is the hush and stillness of a late golden summer afternoon, which our little boat, slipping along so quietly, hardly disturbs. Now we pass beneath Sharpham woods and the river is dark under the shadow of the great trees; another turn, we are out in the sunshine again, and Totnes lies before us. The town seems to have rambled down the hills to the river. We climbed up into it by the steep Fore Street and through the quaint East Gate to see the church and ancient guild hall. “Yes, ma’am, it is an h’old h’and h’ancient room,” said the care-taker, showing us its glories. Totnes is of fabulous antiquity, founded by Brutus of Troy. I had never heard before of any other than “Et tu Brute,” but this one must be genuine, for he did not say when he landed at Totnes, “Here I am and here I rest. And this town shall be called Totnes,” whereupon he sat down upon a stone which I saw imbedded in the pavement at 51 Fore Street. To realize the charm of Totnes one must go up the hill to the keeps of the old Norman castle, climb the battlements and look out over the soft, rich country, a land of swelling hills and wooded valleys, with the dim blue line of the Dartmoor hills in the distance. Devon and the Duchy of Cornwall abound in beautiful little rivers, and there is great rivalry and difference of opinion as to which is the most lovely, the Fal, the Tamar or the Dart, but I think all of us here today ought to give preference to the Dart, if we are true children of the soil. But are we? One word more and I am done. Are we true children of Dartmouth, when we submit quietly to having our little village called Padanaram? Why does this gathering, which rejoices in the proud title of the “Old Dartmouth Historical Society,” invite us to a clambake in Padanaram? It ought to be ashamed of itself. An ancient joke, and a poor one at that, has fastened upon this innocent village a Biblical name of no particular importance and with, for us, no historical association. A name we should try to get rid of and which we do our best to perpetuate. Else why do we have a “Padanaram Village Improvement Association”? I confess I have little interest in the improvement of the village under that name. I know I am pleading in vain, for I feel that the Union Street Railway Company practically settled this matter when it hung out the Padanaram sign board on its cars, and that we are in the grasp of a merciless monopoly all fellow sufferers on the “church cars” on Sunday morning will agree. It is useless to argue with that company, but is there no such thing as parental authority? Cannot your honorable president deal with his wayward son and through him influence the directors? As I said before, I feel it is almost hopeless, but may I be recorded in your books as having entered a protest against the use of that name. Since seeing our name place on the other side of the ocean, I feel more strongly than ever that we should cling to the name of South Dartmouth for our village.
Dedication of the Fearing Memorial
Fairhaven, July 19, 1905
Fairhaven has added another link to the chain connecting the past with the present in making public recognition of brave deeds done nearly 127 years ago, when on the seventh day of September, in the year 1778, the soldier patriot, Major Israel Fearing, gathered a small company of militiamen about him, and the men, inspired by the lofty courage of their daring commander, met the British troops, completely defeating them and driving them from the town. The invaders left in a hurry the village they had come to destroy. This afternoon was set apart for the dedication of the boulder place at the entrance to the parapet at Fort Phoenix as a memorial to Major Fearing. The day is particularly appropriate, as it was on a Saturday that Major Fearing and his men saved the town from the torches of the invaders. The huge boulder is typical of the strong courage of the man in whose memory it has been placed in its present positions, and it was taken from a spot that must in those days have been counted as hallowed ground, the old fort which stood between Fairhaven and those who sought its destruction.
It was fitting that the exercises of the day should be carried out by the Fairhaven Improvement Association, an organization which is always seeking to improve that which Major Fearing thought worth saving, a society whose membership whose membership represents the sort of men, earnest and public-spirited, interested in preserving the memory of the early patriots. The suggestion for a memorial boulder originated with Job C. Tripp, the secretary of the association. It was first brought up two years ago, and last fall the boulder was placed in position. This spring an oval bronze plate was set in the east side of the boulder, bearing an inscription telling of the deed of Major Fearing.
The afternoon was made a general half-holiday in Fairhaven. The threatening weather was the cause of considerable anxiety to those in charge of the event, and early in the day the plan was to postpone the exercises in case of rain, but later arrangements were made to have it in the town hall if necessary, though the clambake was held in the grove north of the pavilion at the fort, as had been planned, at 1 o’clock. Over 200 tickets were sold for this bake. The town presented a general holiday appearance, with flags flying from the public buildings and from many of the private residences. At the fort there was a profuse display of national colors. After the bake the exercises of dedication were carried out, the occasion being graced with the presence of William W. Crapo, president of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society, the principal speaker of the afternoon. A patriotic selection by the Musical Exchange Band opened the exercises, following which President Lyman C. Bauldry of the Association spoke of the occasion for the gathering and introduced as the first speaker Thomas A. Tripp, the president of the Association at the time the memorial boulder was projected.
Mr. Tripp spoke as follows:
“I recall two lines in one of the selections for declamation of my school boy days-one of those selections which boys search for, and girls too, because the verses have a jingle which makes them easy to memorize, which ran thus: ‘In 1775 the fight of Lexington aroused this nation, and after eight years’ strife the right prevailed and gave us freedom’s station.’
“And so we have come together on this typical Fairhaven afternoon on this ‘Fairhaven Improvement Association Day’ to commemorate with music and speech and presence one of the stirring events of that eight years of historic strife. Coming down to this rugged point of this ‘stern and rock-bound coast’ was not an original idea with this association, its esteemed president or with this generation. No doubt the Indians picnicked here, enjoyed the corn from Angelico and the clams from yonder flats, long before advancing civilization polluted the waters of one of New England’s fairest harbors.
“The attractions of Fort Phoenix, so called, are varied; ‘go down to the fort’ is a favorite expression-some come for picnics, some for bathing, some for clambakes and some because the presence of a foreign fleet threatens the safety of home and town; but we are the first to come for the dual purpose of enjoying the pleasure of this locality as well as to commemorate the valor of those who came here before us in defense of home and fireside.
“It is particularly fitting that we should have selected Saturday as the day for this observance, for on this very day of the week, Saturday, Sept. 5, 1778, British frigates and transports arrived in the bay under command of General Gray for the purpose of destroying the shipping in the harbor and the villages on the shores-troops were landed at Clarks Cove, and proceeding to the little fort on Clarks Neck destroyed the guns there mounted, moved along to the village of Bedford, burning and pillaging, and then up by the country road to Acushnet and across and down the Fairhaven side, burning the house which stood on the site of that built by John Cook, the boy Pilgrim of the Mayflower, the first white settler in Fairhaven and the last survivor of the Pilgrim crew; then burning a schoolhouse and other houses on the way to Sconticut Neck, finally plundering the farm of John West, but not burning the house, before taking the boats again for the vessels in the bay.
“Encouraged by this day’s success, they landed again on Sunday, Sept. 6, 1778, just north of this fort and started for the destruction of the village. But conditions had changed-Israel Fearing had arrived on the scene. He took command of the 100 minutemen and drove the invaders back to their ships. In retreating they destroyed the barracks at the Fort here, from which the militia had fled, spiked the guns and broke off their trunions.
“The fort was speedily rebuilt, however, and garrisoned and called Fort ‘Fearing.’ This designation remained but a short time, for in 1784 deeds refer to this as ‘Noiscott Point,’ on which Fort Phoenix now stands.
“Three thoughts come to me fitting for this occasion. First, the erection of this tablet and boulder and the cause of its erection signifies the value and typifies the result of earnest individual effort. The universal law is that everything costs-nothing is given without toil, the goods are not delivered until the price is paid. You may have read of the schoolboy who prepared to write a regulation June essay on ‘Success.’ And he, more clever than most boys, wrote to a dozen or so of America’s famous men and asked them their views. The replies were much after the same order, and the newspaper paragrapher condensed them in this wise: ‘There are six requisites for success; first is the willingness to work; the other five the work itself.’
“So while the Indian was satisfied without toil, eking out a bare existence by hunting and fishing, the white man comes and hews the forest and digs the rocks and tills the soil, and builds homes and churches and schools, and in doing so he not only provides for himself physical strength, but manhood and character-just that sort of manhood and character that made Israel Fearing the Caesar of Sept. 6, the Veni Vidi Vici man of that memorable Sunday in 1778.
“I must not pass this thought without calling your attention to the fact that it is the individual effort of one man which has made this occasion possible, the original suggestion and continued persistence of Mr. Job C. Tripp has resulted in the placing of this boulder and tablet, and brought the people appropriately here today.
“The second thought-it is 127 years since the valorous deed of Israel Fearing, before the people of the town he saved gather to do him honor-certainly and emphatic application of the Heraldic motto, ‘Festina Lente.’
“The time in which we live brings this other thought, and that is, there are other revolutions besides those of the eight years following the battle of Lexington-the revolutions of industry, of commerce, or education and of peace. Nowhere in all the world are these revolutions more active than in Fairhaven. The quarry which furnished the stone for this fortification, useless for defense today, provides material for edifices of literature, religion and education, unlimited and enduring in their influence for the right settlement of great problems.
“The question of today is not the revolution of war, but of peace; not strength of arms, but arbitration. The world makes rapid strides-the moat and drawbridge are no longer a necessity for home protection. ‘Ho Warder, Ho-Up drawbridge, groom, let the portcullis fall,’ describes historic relics of the feudal days; and because man has sought many inventions this rampart is of no more value for defense today than the moat of the ancient castle, and the guns themselves worthless, except as material for the proverbial ploughshare and pruning hook.
“The great question of arbitration is before the world. John Jay was hung in effigy in 1794 because he inserted an arbitration clause in a treaty with England; Fox, Wesley, Penn, Sumner and Channing were criticized because they believed a world peace was practical and possible. General Sheridan said at the Centennial of 1876: ‘War will eliminate itself; by the next centennial arbitration will rule the world.’ What do we find? In less than 25 years, on May 18, 1899, 100 delegates from 26 civilized nations, formed The Hague tribunal.
“Every one reads and hears of war and battle; how many know that more than 30 nations have already entered into obligatory compacts for the settlement of their disputes? How many know that 300 disputes between nations have been settled by arbitration-any of them sufficient cause for war-since John Jay was hung in effigy? How many know that the Chileans and Argentines five years ago on the verge of war have amicably adjusted their differences, made an agreement for the partial reduction of their armies and partial disarmament of their navies, the first nations in the world to do so? How many know that as a memorial of that compact these two nations have erected a statue of Christ at the border line on the heights of the Andes, and there, [in] March, 1904, the people gathered 1,400 feet above the sea, Chileans on the Argentine side and Argentines on the Chilean side, and appropriately dedicated the statue to perpetual peace through arbitration?
‘Dream not helmet and harness the sign of valor true.
Peace hath higher tests of manhood than battle ever knew.’
“The valiant soldier of Sept. 6, 1778, acting according to the dictates of his conscience, used his ability and leadership to save this town. Had he lived today may we presume that his character and ability and leadership would have brought to him the greater honor of representing his country at the court of The Hague, helping to hasten that inevitable day of worldwide arbitration when the ‘swords shall be beat into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks, nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.’”
Mr. Crapo, introduced as the next speaker, gave an address replete with sentient points as to the lessons to be drawn from the occasion. Mr. Crapo said:
“All the world admires a brave man who is endowed with the qualities of leadership, who with promptness and unflinching fearlessness meets a perilous emergency and whose daring and enthusiasm inspire his comrades to deeds of valor. Such a man was Major Israel Fearing. The story of his live I leave to others.
“The name is not prominent in the annals of the Revolution, for he was not commander in great battles. But while the part he performed was less conspicuous, it was in no sense of trifling importance. His courage, his sagacity, his soundness of judgment and his patriotic ardor command our respect and entitle him to a place in the list of Revolutionary heroes.
“When the continued oppression by the mother country and the scornful denials of the appeals for relief were no longer endurable the colonists had no other alternative than war. The conflict was between a people few in numbers, dwelling in different colonies and having slight political cohesion, and a nation of vast resources and power, whose victorious armies and navies were the wonder of the world. The struggle at the outset seemed hopeless, and it would have been hopeless had not men like Israel Fearing entered it without counting the cost, indifferent to privation and regardless of life itself if the end sought could be gained in the establishment of a free republic. The lesson of the war is a familiar one. The causes which led up to it, the hardship and suffering which attended it and the glorious triumph which crowned it cannot and must not be forgotten.
“Now and then someone in deprecating tones tells us that it is easier to talk about the half-forgotten past than it is to grapple with the exigencies of the present, that it is easier to pluck the flowers from the thicket by the ancient roadway than it is to blaze the trees that mark the pathway to better methods and grander purposes. These men, immersed in the whirl of the present or intent upon the adoption of some special plan of their own for the redemption of the world, may regard this ceremonial as a harmless diversion and of little consequence in solving the problems of the hour, but the recognition of the past in the preservation of the record of notable events and in keeping alive the story of heroic deeds and the men who performed them is and has been a powerful influence in the progress of civilization. Every Fairhaven boy and girl has greater love for home and birthplace, greater pride and loyalty to the town because of the fact that John Cook, the Mayflower Pilgrim, and Israel Fearing, the Revolutionary patriot, are identified with Fairhaven’s history.
“The present owes much to the past. All achievement is the result of past effort. The finished product of one generation becomes the raw material for the next to be wrought into still higher perfection. The present is indebted to the past for its great history, its inspiring traditions, its famous men and women and the grand work it has done for liberty and humanity. It is true that the present is full of splendor, brilliant with progress and achievement, but at times dazed and dazzled by its glare and glitter, its pomp and circumstance; we do not see as clearly as we might that easier methods are taking the place of the homely virtues and the inflexible rectitude in private and public behavior which marked the earlier days. And yet the world is moving forward, not backward. There are hours of discouragement, when we read of graft and bribery and official misconduct and business intrigue and deceit and commercial dishonor, but we should remember that the calcium light of the present, as never before, is thrown upon the spots and blemishes and reveals, as never before, the weakness and the wickedness. It is in this exposure and publicity that we have hope for the future. When the cesspool is located it can be removed. When the defect in the plumbing becomes apparent it can be remedied. The post office subordinates who disgraced themselves and dishonored the public service have been punished. The St. Louis grafters are in jail. The land thieves of Oregon have been indicted and some who are holding high official position have been convicted. The temper of the people is seen in their demand for a higher standard of public virtue.
“This is a better world than it was a hundred years ago. The austerity and narrowness of the past have given way to greater cheerfulness and greater liberality in thought and action, greater respect for the opinions and motives of others and greater regard for the rights of others. It is a better world than it was a hundred and thirty years ago because of the lives of Israel Fearing and the men like him, who gave us a country we can call our own and who bequeathed to us an example of fortitude and self-denial and lofty patriotism which in the intervening years has aided the national development and in coming generations will guide it to further advancement.
“The Fairhaven Improvement Association has done well in paying this tribute to a brave soldier and in its grateful recognition of the service he rendered in saving this village from pillage and burning by a hostile army, and in after years, when men and women visit this spot and read the simple words inscribed upon this memorial of stone, they will be prompted to higher nobility of character and to greater sacrifices for the common good.”
The last speaker was Colonel George L. Montague, who, himself a solder, chose for his subject “Major Fearing, the Puritan Soldier,” and spoke of Fairhaven’s patriot in terms of glowing and appreciative praise.
Colonel Montague spoke as follows:
“I hold myself happy that, in the presence of such a representative gathering, I am permitted to participate in the ceremonies of this hour and to join with you in paying honor to the brave Puritan soldier, Major Israel Fearing, who, on the 6th day of Sept. 1778, by his unflinching heroism and resolute leadership, saved this town from the ravages of an invading foe.
“It is superfluous for me to detail the occurrences of that day, as the story has been so fully and felicitously told by the speakers who have preceded me, and it the paper entitled ‘Fairhaven in Four Wars,’ read by its author, George H. Tripp, before the Dartmouth Historical Society.
“The Fairhaven Improvement Association honors itself in the appropriate and gracious honor it pays today to this heroic Puritan, in placing this ‘Memorial boulder’ which shall tell, when we are silent, the splendid story of that day, and, to the young and docile hearts, that for long years hereafter shall hither come, shall teach this lesson of heroism and love of country.
“This is the Puritan state, and Major Israel Fearing was the typical Puritan soldier in that momentous struggle which marks the birth of our great republic. That struggle is as old as history. It is fought by the tongue and pen as earnestly as with the sword and shell. It is the contest for the largest individual freedom. But everywhere and always, in whatever crude and imperfect form, it is a movement of the same conflict, it is the struggle between those who declare that some men have no rights and those who hold the truth to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.
“In Europe, three centuries ago, the cause of the people took form as the Protestant Reformation, and transferred to the battlefield, was the Thirty Years’ War. In England, drawn to a finer point by the sermons of stern preachers, by the debates in parliament, in the loud snarl of pamphlets, it was known as Puritanism. But soon it was preaching and debating no longer. At Edgehill, John Pym’s speeches had become pikes, and Charles’s falsehoods, swords. The cavalier fought for privilege, the Puritan for the people. The struggle was fierce and long, and when the smoke of battle rolled away, Puritanism remained bivouacked upon the field. But its complete victory was reserved for another country and another continent. The old Puritanism was, doubtless, gloomy and severe. The tree that bore the rosy fruit of American liberty was knotted and gnarled.
“But while the cavalier, the Tory, the aristocrat, here, as elsewhere, have always derided Puritanism, remember that the greatest of all English rulers was a Puritan; the greatest of all English poets but one was a Puritan. The Puritan policy abroad swept the Mediterranean of pirates and protected the Protestants of France and of Savoy. The Puritan policy at home defended civil and religious liberty against despotism, mitered as a bishop and crowned as a king. Across the sea it planted the rocks of New England with the seed of popular liberty and equal rights. The harvest is as vigorous as the soil, for Freedom is a rude plant and loves thee cooler latitudes. In the auspicious air of a new continent, the Puritan spirit became modified and enlarged. Out of strength came forth sweetness. Government by church members became government by the people. John Pym became James Otis.
“The larger and generous Puritanism of America inspired the Revolution. They were Puritan guns whose echo is endless upon Bunker Hill. It was the Puritan spirit that spoke in the Declaration of Independence. It was the Puritan will that shook the glittering hand of the Cavalier Burgoyne from the Hudson. It was to the Puritan idea that Cornwallis surrendered to the Puritan under the Appomattox apple tree.
“Those stern, sad men, in peaked hats, who prayed in camp and despised love locks, and at whom fribbles in politics laugh and sneer today, were the indomitable vanguard of moral and political freedom. If they snuffled in prayer, they smote in fight; if they sang through their noses, the hymn they chanted was liberty; if they aimed at a divine monarchy, they have founded the freest, the most enlightened, the most prosperous, and the most powerful republic in history.
“’E’en in our ashes live their wonted fires.’ And more than a century after Naseby and Worcester, Major Israel Fearing, the Puritan soldier of the Puritan state, fired with the spirit caught from the grim champion of the people, Oliver Cromwell, the sturdiest Puritan of them all, with patriotism so pure and courage so unquailing, that he could not yield, upon that September day, on yonder field, drew up his frail and wavering line, with vigorous speech and gallant bearing held firm and steady his little band of 100 men, and, answering the attack of the British by a sharp volley from the rifles’ mouth, drove them their boats and saved from devastation the threatened town.
“Freshly to preserve the memory of great events and of noble men is to cherish the greatness of the state and inspire noble citizenship. The history of his country stimulates every young patriot to make that country worthier the love of his children. ‘Noblesse oblige’ says the old proverb. The sons of nobles must be noble. The youth, bred in the ancestral halls of his race, hung with portraits of heroic ancestors, is inspired to deserve his descent by being himself a hero. The figure of Cromwell standing among the English kings is not the executioner of Charles the First, but the living genius of Liberty, to Englishmen. And Greenough’s statue of Washington at the national capital, with one hand holding the empty sword sheath and the other pointing to the sky, as it faces the halls where congress sits, says forever to every American senator and representative, the ‘freedom which this sword won, only the justice of heaven can preserve.’ So the monuments of the Civil War and memorials like this, happily arising in every town and every village, are so many springs of liberty and patriotism flowing everywhere through the land.
“Patriotism feeds upon local traditions, heroic events and the memories of famous men. Only the magic of the lotus could dull the longing of the Greek heart for Greece. The soul of the German thrills everywhere to the music of his fatherland. The Irishman is still the exile of Erin. The wandering Savoyard hears I his dreams the ‘ranz des vaches’ of his native mountains. The Scotchman, whose land is merged in a mighty empire, is still true to Scotland, and wherever he wanders, hears in his yearning memory every Scottish legend, song, and hero.
“How like a sunrise, do memorials, such as we have this day placed, strengthen and stimulate and inspire patriotism through our broad land. And as in the days of Puritan persecution in Scotland, the undaunted voices of the Covenanters were heard singing hymns that echoed and re-echoed from peak to peak of the barren mountains until the great dumb wilderness was vocal with praise, so the memories of heroic deeds like this shall echo and re-echo in every brave American heart until the whole land rings with the litany of love of country.
“Here leave this memorial under the sky and overlooking this beautiful bay. This glowing pageant, this living multitude, these peals of music, these spoken words shall pass away, but while the waters of our harbor bathe this shore, its waves shall murmur the name and recall the glorious and heroic story of Major Israel Fearing.”
The playing of America by the band closed the exercises. At the Church Street ball grounds there was a band concert planned for from 3 to 3:30 o’clock, after which, weather permitting, there was to be a ball game between the Fairhaven and Mattapoisett teams. This evening, from 7:30 to 8:30 o’clock, there will be a band concert, with a display of fireworks, at the fort, if the weather is pleasant.
The success of the day is due to the efforts of President Bauldry and the following entertainment committee of the executive committee of the Improvement Association: Mrs. H. K. Nye, chairman; Mrs. W. P. Winsor, Mrs. E. G. Tallman, Mrs. Peter Murray, Mrs. Zenas Winsor, Mrs. James N. Gifford, George N. Gardiner, William C. Gardner, Joseph H. Allen, Allen R. Bingham, George E. Sylvia, Nathaniel I. Crossman, and Louis W. Tilden.
Last modified: May 26, 2014