Tuesday, September 25, 2012

John Quincy Adams at Marietta

The Marietta Register, April 14, 1881

From the "Evangelist."

In the summer of 1843 the newspapers announced that this distinguished man had consented to lay the corner-stone of the Cincinnati Observatory.  The month of November was selected for the imposing ceremonies of that occasion.  The 10th of November proved stormy, but an immense concourse of people assembled to witness an event so unusual, and also to see and hear a man whose name was associated with the history of the nation from its infancy. 

As soon as Mr. Adams was known to have accepted the invitation of the Cincinnati Astronomical society, the citizens of Marietta took measures to invite him to their place as the first settled north of the Ohio, and by men from Massachusetts.  Mr. Adams accepted their invitation conditionally, agreeing if consistent with other engagements to stop a little while, on his journey up the Ohio.  No day or hour for his arrival could be fixed, positively, but it was understood throughout the town that on his arrival the bell of the Congregational church would be rung.  People were watching all the boats in expectation of the distinguished guest.

Early one afternoon the preconcerted signal announced his arrival, and the whole town poured towards the church.  A great crowd met him at the wharf and went with him to the church.  He was introduced to the people, I think by Caleb Emerson, Esq., and in response he made an address extemporaneously.  In his remarks he showed a minute acquaintance with the first movements which resulted in the settlement in Ohio.  He spoke of the leading men in the enterprise.  He had known Rufus Putnam, what part he had borne in the Revolutionary War, and what had been the leading influence he exerted in founding the colony and in raising it through the hardships of its first decade.  He paid a noble tribute to the memory of this man, so dear to the Marietta people.

He spoke also of bold Commodore Whipple, who "fired the first gun on the sea at the British, in the opening of the Revolutionary War," by heading the party which captured and burnt the Gaspe in the waters of Rhode Island.  He described Col. Tupper, Return Jonathan Meigs, Gen. Varnum, Col. Parsons, the Devols, the Greens, the Putnams, Dr. Cutler and his son, the Fearings, &c., &c.  His knowledge of the families of the original settlers, where they came from, what they encountered on the journey and after landing at the mouth of the Muskingum, their sufferings during the Indian Wars, &c., surprised all present.  What made it the more remarkable was, that there was then no published book from which he might have gleaned the facts, for Dr. Hildreth did not publish his "Pioneers of Ohio" until 1848, and the "Lives of the Early Settlers of Ohio" until 1852. 

I was afterward informed that Mr. Adams accounted for his minute acquaintance with the early settlers of Ohio, by stating that he carefully read the accounts which were from time to time published in the newspapers of the day.  Many of the pioneers were educated men, and wrote from the wilderness letters to their friends in New England, detailing carefully all the events transpiring in the colony.  These were usually published in the Massachusetts newspapers and were read with as great avidity as a few years since people read the exciting letters from California.  From this source Mr. Adams drew the materials of that admirable half hour's address, and the minuteness of his details, and the correctness of his names, dates, and other statements, proved the amazing accuracy and discipline of his memory.

After his remarks were concluded, Mr. Adams left the pulpit and one by one the congregation were presented to him.  The first settlers were almost all gone, in fact I do not recall one who was present on this interesting occasion.  However, there were many there who had come as children with the pioneers, or who had been born soon after the settlement was made.  There were descendants of Israel Putnam, of Pomfret, through the line of his son, Col. Israel Putnam.  There were Deacon William Rufus Putnam and his son William Rufus, the son and grandson of Gen. Rufus Putnam.  There were the Nyes, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Col. Benjamin Tupper.  There were Judge Cutler and his son, the son and grandson of the Rev. Manasseh Cutler who negotiated with Congress the purchase of the land for the Ohio Company.  There were the descendants of Capt. Joseph Barker, prominent among whom was Joseph Barker, Esq., the first child born in Belpre township, which settlement was made soon after that at Marietta.  Capt. Barker himself had been dead only two months. 

The Danas from Newport and Belpre came also to welcome the sage of Quincy.  One of these, Mr. George Dana, a plain farmer, of uncommon mental parts and acquirements, came up leading his little son, John Quincy Dana, and said to Mr. Adams, "here is my youngest son, whom I have named to show my esteem for you."  Mr. Adams immediately put his hand on the lad's head and said "God bless you my son."

Descendants of Jonathan Stone, Paul Fearing, Ebenezer Battelle, Devol, and other Pioneers were introduced.  It was a singularly impressive sight thus to have the children and grandchildren of the very men Mr. Adams had been speaking of, come up to shake his hand.  In two hours from the time he landed he was on the boat, the crowd cheering him most heartily.

Mr. Caleb Emerson of Marietta accompanied Mr. Adams to Pittsburgh, and I was told that these remarkable men spent the greater part of the night in conversation.  Mr. Emerson was usually called "the walking Encyclopedia of Marietta."  Physically he was very lethargic, and he was negligent in the matter of dress, but in the absorption of knowledge he was a marvel.  He would read from the time he arose until late at night.  He had one of the most noble heads I ever looked at.  His knowledge expanded to every pursuit, and his almost miraculous memory seemed to retain everything he read.  His reasoning powers were masculine, and clear; and what he read he mastered.  His conversational talents were remarkable and it made no difference what topic might be introduced, he was ready to pour out the treasures of his mind, not in tame generalities, but in special detail. 

It excited the wonder even of intelligent men, to hear him trace the history of affairs in this country; for instance, the introduction of slavery, its progress, the views of patriots at the time the Constitution was formed, the means used to remove it, &c.  he was at home on every subject.  There was not a valuable book in the library of the Marietta Library Association, or that of Marietta College, which he had not devoured.  Not unfrequently he would go to Columbus, for the purpose of reading some rare book in the State Library.  In his habits he was simple, and it was a common habit with our boys in College when about to write a speech or composition on some assigned theme requiring reading, to call on Mr. Emerson to have him talk out what he knew.  And the kind hearted old gentleman always delighted to do the boys so easy a favor as that.

It was a common saying in Marietta, "what a pity Mr. Emerson did not have the executive energy which goads some men up to high places, for such a mind as his impelled by such energy would have made him a marked man in the nation!"  This was his deficiency, for with all his knowledge I do not think he ever published anything beyond one or two admirable papers in the North American Review.  A gentleman who was present told me that the conversation between John Quincy Adams and Caleb Emerson on the steamboat was marvelous, and that the Sage of Quincy did not outshine his plain companion from Marietta, a statement which I can easily credit, because few men had greater resources from which to draw than Mr. Emerson.

Mr. Emerson was a Baptist, but not a strenuous, intrusive one.  From its foundation he was a trustee of Marietta College, and took a lively interest in its welfare.  His views were held in great respect by his friends in the Board, and he had not a little influence in bringing that excellent institution to its present prosperity.  Originally he was a printer - and he had received only such an education as a Massachusetts Common School affords.

The exact date of Mr. Adams' visit to Marietta was Wednesday, November 15th, and the time two o'clock, P.M.  The day was unpleasant and rainy.  Mr. Adams rode from the landing to the church in Mr. Nahum Ward's carriage and after the address had been concluded and the informal reception brought to an end, the distinguished statesman was driven to the great mound in the cemetery, to the elevated squares and Sacra Via, which he viewed with great interest.  Mr. Emerson was one of the committee of three who traveled with Mr. Adams to Pittsburgh as a guard of honor.  The other members were Judge Ephraim Cutler and Judge Joseph Barker.

Nahum Ward was chairman of the Committee of Reception and the marshals were A. T. Nye and Noah L. Wilson.  The address of welcome was delivered by Deacon William R. Putnam.

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