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- The Life of Harriet Beecher Stowe - 10/82 -
DR. BEECHER CALLED TO CINCINNATI.--THE WESTWARD JOURNEY.--FIRST LETTER FROM HOME.--DESCRIPTION OF WALNUT HILLS.--STARTING A NEW SCHOOL.-- INWARD GLIMPSES.--THE SEMI-COLON CLUB.--EARLY IMPRESSIONS OF SLAVERY. --A JOURNEY TO THE EAST.--THOUGHTS AROUSED BY FIRST VISIT TO NIAGARA.-- MARRIAGE TO PROFESSOR STOWE.
IN 1832, after having been settled for six years over the Hanover Street Church in Boston, Dr. Beecher received and finally accepted a most urgent call to become President of Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati. This institution had been chartered in 1829, and in 1831 funds to the amount of nearly $70,000 had been promised to it provided that Dr. Beecher accepted the presidency. It was hard for this New England family to sever the ties of a lifetime and enter on so long a journey to the far distant West of those days; but being fully persuaded that their duty lay in this direction, they undertook to perform it cheerfully and willingly. With Dr. Beecher and his wife were to go Miss Catherine Beecher, who had conceived the scheme of founding in Cincinnati, then considered the capital of the West, a female college, and Harriet, who was to act as her principal assistant. In the party were also George, who was to enter Lane as a student, Isabella, James, the youngest son, and Miss Esther Beecher, the "Aunt Esther" of the children.
Before making his final decision, Dr. Beecher, accompanied by his daughter Catherine, visited Cincinnati to take a general survey of their proposed battlefield, and their impressions of the city are given in the following letter written by the latter to Harriet in Boston:--
"Here we are at last at our journey's end, alive and well. We are staying with Uncle Samuel (Foote), whose establishment I will try and sketch for you. It is on a height in the upper part of the city, and commands a fine view of the whole of the lower town. The city does not impress me as being so very new. It is true everything looks neat and clean, but it is compact, and many of the houses are of brick and very handsomely built. The streets run at right angles to each other, and are wide and well paved. We reached here in three days from Wheeling, and soon felt ourselves at home. The next day father and I, with three gentlemen, walked out to Walnut Hills. The country around the city consists of a constant succession and variety of hills of all shapes and sizes, forming an extensive amphitheatre. The site of the seminary is very beautiful and picturesque, though I was disappointed to find that both river and city are hidden by intervening hills. I never saw a place so capable of being rendered a paradise by the improvements of taste as the environs of this city. Walnut Hills are so elevated and cool that people have to leave there to be sick, it is said. The seminary is located on a farm of one hundred and twenty-five acres of fine land, with groves of superb trees around it, about two miles from the city. We have finally decided on the spot where our house shall stand in case we decide to come, and you cannot (where running water or the seashore is wanting) find another more delightful spot for a residence. It is on an eminence, with a grove running up from the back to the very doors, another grove across the street in front, and fine openings through which distant hills and the richest landscapes appear.
"I have become somewhat acquainted with those ladies we shall have the most to do with, and find them intelligent, New England sort of folks. Indeed, this is a New England city in all its habits, and its inhabitants are more than half from New England. The Second Church, which is the best in the city, will give father a unanimous call to be their minister, with the understanding that he will give them what time he can spare from the seminary.
"I know of no place in the world where there is so fair a prospect of finding everything that makes social and domestic life pleasant. Uncle John and Uncle Samuel are just the intelligent, sociable, free, and hospitable sort of folk that everybody likes and everybody feels at home with.
"The folks are very anxious to have a school on our plan set on foot here. We can have fine rooms in the city college building, which is now unoccupied, and everybody is ready to lend a helping hand. As to father, I never saw such a field of usefulness and influence as is offered to him here."
This, then, was the field of labor in which the next eighteen years of the life of Mrs. Stowe were to be passed. At this time her sister Mary was married and living in Hartford, her brothers Henry Ward and Charles were in college, while William and Edward, already licensed to preach, were preparing to follow their father to the West.
Mr. Beecher's preliminary journey to Cincinnati was undertaken in the early spring of 1832, but he was not ready to remove his family until October of that year. An interesting account of this westward journey is given by Mrs. Stowe in a letter sent back to Hartford from Cincinnati, as follows:--
"Well, my dear, the great sheet is out and the letter is begun. All our family are here (in New York), and in good health.
"Father is to perform to-night in the Chatham Theatre! 'positively for the _last_ time this season!' I don't know, I'm sure, as we shall ever get to Pittsburgh. Father is staying here begging money for the Biblical Literature professorship; the incumbent is to be C. Stowe. Last night we had a call from Arthur Tappan and Mr. Eastman. Father begged $2,000 yesterday, and now the good people are praying him to abide certain days, as he succeeds so well. They are talking of sending us off and keeping him here. I really dare not go and see Aunt Esther and mother now; they were in the depths of tribulation before at staying so long, and now,
'In the lowest depths, _another_ deep!'
Father is in high spirits. He is all in his own element,--dipping into books; consulting authorities for his oration; going round here, there, everywhere; begging, borrowing, and spoiling the Egyptians; delighted with past success and confident for the future.
"Wednesday. Still in New York. I believe it would kill me dead to live long in the way I have been doing since I have been here. It is a sort of agreeable delirium. There's only one thing about it, it is too _scattering._ I begin to be athirst for the waters of quietness."
[Illustration: The home at Walnut Hills, Cincinnati.]
Writing from Philadelphia, she adds:--
"Well, we did get away from New York at last, but it was through much tribulation. The truckman carried all the family baggage to the wrong wharf, and, after waiting and waiting on board the boat, we were obliged to start without it, George remaining to look it up. Arrived here late Saturday evening,--dull, drizzling weather; poor Aunt Esther in dismay,--not a clean cap to put on,--mother in like state; all of us destitute. We went, half to Dr. Skinner's and half to Mrs. Elmes's: mother, Aunt Esther, father, and James to the former; Kate, Bella, and myself to Mr. Elmes's. They are rich, hospitable folks, and act the part of Gaius in apostolic times. . . . Our trunks came this morning. Father stood and saw them all brought into Dr. Skinner's entry, and then he swung his hat and gave a 'hurrah,' as any man would whose wife had not had a clean cap or ruffle for a week. Father does not succeed very well in opening purses here. Mr. Eastman says, however, that this is not of much consequence. I saw to-day a notice in the 'Philadelphian' about father, setting forth how 'this distinguished brother, with his large family, having torn themselves from the endearing scenes of their home,' etc., etc., 'were going, like Jacob,' etc.,--a very scriptural and appropriate flourish. It is too much after the manner of men, or, as Paul says, speaking 'as a fool.' A number of the pious people of this city are coming here this evening to hold a prayer-meeting with reference to the journey and its object. For _this_ I thank them."
From Downington she writes:--
"Here we all are,--Noah and his wife and his sons and his daughters, with the cattle and creeping things, all dropped down in the front parlor of this tavern, about thirty miles from Philadelphia. If to-day is a fair specimen of our journey, it will be a very pleasant, obliging driver, good roads, good spirits, good dinner, fine scenery, and now and then some 'psalms and hymns and spiritual songs;' for with George on board you may be sure of music of some kind. Moreover, George has provided himself with a quantity of tracts, and he and the children have kept up a regular discharge at all the wayfaring people we encountered. I tell him he is _peppering_ the land with moral influence.
"We are all well; all in good spirits. Just let me give you a peep into our traveling household. Behold us, then, in the front parlor of this country inn, all as much at home as if we were in Boston. Father is sitting opposite to me at this table, reading; Kate is writing a billet-doux to Mary on a sheet like this; Thomas is opposite, writing in a little journal that he keeps; Sister Bell, too, has her little record; George is waiting for a seat that he may produce his paper and write. As for me, among the multitude of my present friends, my heart still makes occasional visits to absent ones,--visits full of pleasure, and full of cause of gratitude to Him who gives us friends. I have thought of you often to-day, my G. We stopped this noon at a substantial Pennsylvania tavern, and among the flowers in the garden was a late monthly honeysuckle like the one at North Guilford. I made a spring for it, but George secured the finest bunch, which he wore in his buttonhole the rest of the noon.
"This afternoon, as we were traveling, we struck up and sang 'Jubilee.' It put me in mind of the time when we used to ride along the rough North Guilford roads and make the air vocal as we went along. Pleasant times those. Those were blue skies, and that was a beautiful lake and noble pine-trees and rocks they were that hung over it. But those we shall look upon 'na mair.'
"Well, my dear, there is a land where we shall not _love_ and _leave._ Those skies shall never cease to shine, the waters of life we shall _never_ be called upon to leave. We have here no continuing city, but we seek one to come. In such thoughts as these I desire ever to rest, and with such words as these let us 'comfort one another and edify one another.'
"Harrisburg, Sunday evening. Mother, Aunt Esther, George, and the little folks have just gathered into Kate's room, and we have just been singing. Father has gone to preach for Mr. De Witt. To-morrow we expect to travel sixty-two miles, and in two more days shall reach Wheeling; there we shall take the steamboat to Cincinnati."
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