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Chapter 2: Boyhood.—1805-1818.

Lloyd shares the poverty and hardship to which his father's desertion reduces the family. He receives a very slender education at the public schools, is apprenticed shoemaker, cabinet-maker, and finally printer in the Newburyport Herald office.

Few New England towns preserve so well the aspect which they wore at the close of the last and the beginning of the present century, or have been so little affected, externally, by the changes and vicissitudes in their business and social life, as Newburyport; and the description which President Dwight of Yale College gave of the place in 1796 is, in the main, not inapplicable to-day.
‘The town,’ he wrote, ‘is built on a declivity of unrivalled1 beauty. The slope is easy and elegant; the soil rich; the streets, except one near the water, clean and sweet; and the verdure, wherever it is visible, exquisite. The streets are either parallel, or right angled, to the river; the southern shore of which bends, here, towards the south-east. None of them are regularly formed. . . . Still, there is so near an approximation to regularity as to awaken in the mind of a traveller, with peculiar strength, a wish that the regularity had been perfect. . . . There are few towns of equal beauty in this country. . . . The houses, taken collectively, make a better appearance than those of any other town in New England. Many of them are particularly handsome. Their appendages, also, are unusually neat. Indeed, an air of wealth, taste, and elegance is spread over this beautiful spot with a cheerfulness and brilliancy to which I know no rival.’

During the ten years following the period to which this description refers, the town was at the height of its prosperity. Commercially it was of much importance, excelled only by Boston and Salem, and owned a multittude of vessels engaged in the foreign and coastwise [22] trade, and in the fisheries. Not only were its wharves constantly crowded with ships and loaded with merchandise, but the bank of the Merrimac River, even as far as Deer Island, two miles above the town, was occupied by busy ship-yards; and ship-building was one of the most important industries of the place. The prosperous merchants and ship-owners built fine mansions for themselves on State Street, and along the beautiful High Street, from which the town slopes gently down to the water; while their townsmen of more moderate pretensions occupied comfortable homes on the lower thoroughfares between High Street and the river.

The commercial glory and importance of the place have, thanks to the centralizing effect of the railroad, long since departed. Its wharves no longer wear a busy aspect; its ship-yards have one by one fallen into disuse until few remain; but its streets and dwellings still preserve the neat, attractive, and well-cared — for appearance which distinguished them when Dr. Dwight visited the town in 1796. If some houses of more modern construction have here and there arisen in places that were vacant, the old mansions have remained undisturbed, and they still predominate and give character to the place. The Newburyport boy of sixty years ago who revisits his native town to-day, finds many quarters whose general features are unchanged.

The Embargo of 1807-8 had not yet laid its paralyzing hand upon the busy port when Abijah Garrison came there to establish a new home for himself and family, and to seek employment. He was a stranger in the place, without friend or acquaintance among the merchants to whom he applied for a position; but his personal presence and bearing were such that he speedily won their attention and confidence, and secured an engagement as sailing-master,2 in which capacity he made [23] several voyages. The only record that remains of these is contained in two letters, written respectively to his brother Joseph, then residing at Deer Island, and to his wife. The first, which bears date of April 3, 1806 (from Newburyport), mentions that he has ‘just returned from Virginia with a load of Corn and Flour,’ that he has declined numerous opportunities to go as pilot to ‘Quoddy’ on good wages, not being aware that his brother was there, and believing that he could make more by going to Virginia; and that he has some thought of going on a fishing trip to Labrador, thirty dollars a month being the inducement. Evidently he was well satisfied with his experience in Massachusetts, for he had already written to his brother William that he liked the country in the main, though giving ‘some ludicrous descriptions of the customs of the place.’ And he now wrote to Joseph:

I have not much time to write you the Particulars of 3 Business here, but Earnestly recommend you to Come here if you possibly Can without Injuring yourself, for I am Confident you wou'd get a decent living here. There is more than fifty ways you might find Employment, and always have the Cash as soon as the work is done. Money is as Plenty here as goods.

His closing sentence is characteristic:

I shall for the future Put all my letters in the Post Office and wish you to do the Same. The Price of a letter by Post will not amount to more than a meal's victuals, and I am always willing to eat one Meal less for Every letter I receive from any of Our family (rather than fail of getting them).

The letter to his wife was written towards the close of the same year, being dated Pointe-á--Pitre, Guadeloupe,4 November 12, 1806, where, owing to the sickness of himself and the crew, consequent upon bad provisions, he had been detained twenty-four days, instead of five, as he had anticipated.

‘God only knows,’ he wrote, ‘when we shall get away: it5 seems seven years to me since I saw you last. I cou'd with [24] pleasure this moment give all I shall earn this voyage to be present with you and my children. May God bless you [and] preserve you in health is the prayer of your affectionate Husband.’

The modest house on School Street in which William, or, as his mother always called him, Lloyd, was born, belonged to Mrs. Martha Farnham and her husband. who was a captain in the coasting trade; and of them Abijah and Fanny Garrison hired a few rooms soon after their arrival in Newburyport. A strong friendship quickly sprang up between the two women, who found a bond of sympathy in the frequent prolonged absence at sea of their husbands, and in the fact that they were both ardent Baptists and members of the First Baptist Church, which had been established in Newburyport in the spring of 1805. This friendship abided during their lifetime, and was transmitted to their children, who grew up together as members of one family.

Before Lloyd was three years old, his parents lost their second daughter, Caroline, who died in consequence of eating some poisonous flowers in a neighboring garden. A few weeks later, in July, 1808, a third daughter was born to them, to whom the name of Maria Elizabeth was given, and not long after this date Abijah Garrison left Newburyport, never again to return to it or to his family. He went back to New Brunswick, and is known to have been living there in 1814, and to have made several short voyages, and he is also said to have taught school. Of the place and time of his death no knowledge exists, though he is believed to have ended his days in Canada, whither he finally went from New Brunswick.6 [25]

The cause of this desertion of wife and children by a man whose affection for them, as for all related to him, was so often manifested and cannot be questioned, must ever remain somewhat of a mystery. There is reason to believe that the constant temptation to drink, which the social customs and habits of that day, as well as the usages of the sailor's life, offered, proved at times more than he could withstand, and that he experienced a keen sense of mortification whenever his appetite had overcome him. Especially was this temptation strong in a town like Newburyport, itself the seat of numerous distilleries, and having always a considerable transient population of seafaring men, who, accustomed to regular rations of grog at sea, were naturally prone to convivial habits when in port.

‘It was the fashion of the day,’ writes a venerable woman,7 a relative of Abijah, who well remembers that period, ‘to use alcoholic spirit in all places of honor and trust. We had it at our ordinations, weddings, births, and funerals, and the decanter was brought on the table to greet our friends with when they came, and was not forgotten when they left; and if they could stand the test and not reel, they were called sober men.’

There is no evidence that Abijah Garrison ever became an habitually intemperate man; but that his inability always to control an appetite which his wife abhorred with all the intensity of her nature, prevented his obtaining the employment which he had readily secured in previous years, and led him to seek new fields, is not improbable. Certain it is that his wife used entreaty and expostulation to induce him to abandon the habit, and it is related that on one occasion, when some of his fellowcaptains came to the house for a carouse, she promptly [26] ejected and closed the door upon them, and broke the bottles of spirits—not a difficult feat for a woman of her physique, when her moral indignation was aroused. She was in the fulness of life and vigor when, at the age of thirty-two, she found herself left with three small children utterly dependent upon her for support, the eldest being but seven years old, and the youngest a babe in arms; while Lloyd, who was to become in later years her main comfort and hope, was less than three—too young, as already stated, to retain any personal recollection of his father. Up to that time she had enjoyed such exuberant health that she was wont to say that ‘only a cannon-ball could kill Fanny Garrison’; but though she resolutely set about the task of maintaining herself and her little ones, the blow of this desertion was one from which she never recovered, and it shadowed the remaining years of her life.

The struggle for existence became a severe and bitter one. The day of Newburyport's prosperity had passed. and the years of the Embargo and of the war of 1812-15 brought disaster and ruin to its business and commerce. It was no easy matter, therefore, to find the remunerative employment which would feed so many months. The little house in School Street still afforded them shelter, thanks to the sisterly devotion of Martha Farnham, who assured them that while she had a roof to cover her they should share it. When circumstances permitted, Mrs. Garrison took up the calling of a monthly nurse, and during her necessary occasional absences from home the children were under the motherly care of their ‘AuntFarnham. When Lloyd was older, his mother used to send him out on election and training days to sell the nice sticks of molasses candy which she was an adept in making, and he thus earned a few pennies towards the common support.8 [27] to go to a certain mansion on State Street for food, which the friendly inmates would put aside and send to his mother; and he sensitively tried to conceal the contents of his tin pail from the rude boys who sought to discover them and to taunt him.

With all her sorrow at heart, his mother maintained her cheerful and courageous demeanor. She had a fine voice—‘one of the best,’ her son was wont to say— and was ever singing at her work; and in the church meetings at which she and Martha Farnham were constant and devoted attendants (sometimes opening their own house for an evening gathering), she sang with fervor the soul-stirring hymns which have been the inspiration and delight of the devout for generations. She was mirthful withal, and had a quick sense of the ludicrous. Once, when she strayed into the Methodist meeting wearing a ruffle about her neck, as was the fashion of the day, she was startled by the minister's singling her out for rebuke, in his prayer, for what he considered a frivolous habit. Her gravity was nearly upset when the good man exclaimed, ‘We pray thee, O Lord, to strip Sister Garrison of her Babylonish frills!’ and she was convulsed with laughter, hours after, at the thought of it.

In September, 1810, she made her last visit to her old home at Granville, Nova Scotia, taking Lloyd with her; but he was too young to remember anything but the Indians whom he then saw, and who came to his aunt's house with their pappooses slung upon their backs. During the war of 1812-15, she removed to Lynn to pursue her vocation, taking James, her favorite son, a boy of much beauty and promise, with her, that he might learn the trade of shoemaking. Elizabeth was left in Mrs. Farnham's protecting care, while Lloyd went to live with Deacon Ezekiel Bartlett and wife, and their two daughters, worthy people, who dwelt at the corner of Water and Summer Streets, within sight and stone'sthrow of the Merrimac, and who were faithful members [28] of the little Baptist Church. Up to that time, what little instruction the boy had received had probably been obtained at the primary or writing school opposite the Farnhams', in School Street; and he had not shown himself an apt scholar, being slow in mastering the alphabet, and surpassed even by his little sister Elizabeth. He finally learned to spell, read, and write correctly, though the last accomplishment was acquired with no slight pains, for he was left-handed, and his master promptly checked his propensity to write accordingly, by a rap over the knuckles with his ruler. The treatment was radical, and the result a clear, round, handsome chirography, which was exhibited in the banks and countingrooms of the town as a model, and which always retained its character and beauty.

After he became an inmate of the Bartlett household he was sent to the Grammar School on the Mall, for three months, at the end of which he was compelled to leave, and do what he could towards earning his board by helping Deacon Bartlett. The good Deacon, who was in very humble circumstances, sawed wood, sharpened saws, made lasts, and even sold apples from a little stand at his door, to win a subsistence for his family; and Lloyd, who was an exemplary and conscientious boy, and warmly attached to his kind friends, dutifully tried to do all he could to lighten their burden of poverty. There were times, however, when he wished that he did not have to follow the Deacon about to help him saw and split wood, and would much rather have gone off to play with other boys; and once, when aggrieved by the denial of some privilege which he had asked of the Deacon, he ran away with an enterprising comrade, and was met twenty miles from town by the driver of the mail-coach, who picked up the fugitives and brought them back.

Lloyd was a thorough boy, fond of games and of all boyish sports. Barefooted, he trundled his hoop all over Newburyport; he swam in the Merrimac in summer, and skated on it in winter; he was good at sculling a boat; [29] he played at bat-and-ball and snowball, and sometimes led the ‘South-end boys’ against the ‘North-enders’ in the numerous conflicts between the youngsters of the two sections; he was expert with marbles. Once, with a playmate, he swam across the river to ‘Great Rock,’ a distance of three-fourths of a mile, and effected his return against the tide; and once, in winter, he nearly lost his life by breaking through the ice on the river, and reached the shore only after a desperate struggle, the ice yielding as often as he attempted to climb upon its surface.

It was a favorite pastime of the boys of that day to swim from one wharf to another adjacent, where vessels from the West Indies discharged their freight of molasses, and there to indulge in stolen sweetness, extracted by a smooth stick inserted through the bung-hole. When detected and chased, they would plunge into the water and escape to the wharf on which they had left their clothes. In this way they became connoisseurs of the different grades of molasses, and fastidious in their selection of the hogshead to be tested. Like most lads brought up in seaport towns, Lloyd was smitten with a desire to go to sea, but happily this never took full possession of him, as it subsequently did of his ill-fated brother.

Inheriting his mother's fondness for music, he joined the choir of the Baptist Church while yet a boy, and sometimes acted as chorister. He had a rich voice, which could soar high and follow any flute. It was a delight to him to go to singing-school, and many of the hymns and tunes which he sang all his life were associated in his memory with the circumstances under which he first learned them, or with the fact that they were favorites of his dear mother. The first psalm-tune he ever learned was the 34th Psalm,—‘Through all the changing scenes of life, in trouble and in joy;’ and ‘Wicklow’ he first heard at a singing-school in Belleville (part of Newburyport), ‘where there were lots of boys and pretty girls.’ In later years, and, indeed, to the end of his life, it was [30] his habit, each Sunday morning, to go through these, accompanying himself on the piano with one hand (he could never master the bass); and the strains of ‘Coronation,’ ‘Heborn,’ ‘Ward.’ ‘Denmark,’ ‘Lenox,’ ‘Majesty,’ and other familiar tunes, would waken the sleepers above, who, claiming their Sunday morning privilege, were still lingering in their beds.

He had a great fondness for pet animals, especially cats, who instinctively recognized him as their friend and would come and jump into his lap at first sight and without invitation. From earliest boyhood he had one or more pussies, and his first great sorrow was being compelled to drown an old favorite whose days of usefulness were considered past. He never forgot the agony of that experience. A pleasanter remembrance was of the demonstrations of delight with which another pet cat greeted him, on his return home after a considerable absence. A little while after the boy had gone to bed he was awakened by the rubbing of soft fur against his face, and found that puss had brought her latest litter of kittens, born while he was away, and had deposited them, one by one, about his head. ‘My eyes moistened when I realized what she had done,’ he said, ‘and we all slept in one bed that night.’

During their mother's absence in Lynn, the children heard frequently from her by letter, and Lloyd was able to write to her in reply. Her little notes to him were full of tender affection and earnest hope that he would be a good and dutiful boy. Already her health and strength were beginning to fail, after her arduous struggle to maintain herself and her children; and her inability now to do continuous work made it all the more imperative that they should learn trades that would enable them to become self-supporting. So Lloyd was brought to Lynn to learn shoemaking, and apprenticed to Gamaliel W. Oliver, an excellent man and a member of the Society of Friends, who lived on Market Street and had a modest workshop in the yard adjoining his house. There the little boy, who was only nine [31] years old, and so small that his fellow-workmen called him ‘not much bigger than a last,’ toiled for several months until he could make a tolerable shoe, to his great pride and delight. He was much too young and small for his task, however, and it soon became evident that he lacked the strength to pursue the work. He always retained a vivid recollection of the heavy lapstone, on9 which he pounded many a sole until his body ached and his knees were sore and tremulous; of the threads he waxed, and the sore fingers he experienced from sewing shoes; and not less vividly, but much more gratefully, did he remember the kindness shown him by his worthy master and wife, in whose family he lived during his brief apprenticeship. From their house he witnessed the great gale of September, 1815, which made as strong an impression on his memory as the great Newburyport fire of 1811, which, when a boy of five, he had been held up to the window to see.

In October, 1815, Mr. Paul Newhall, a shoe manufacturer of Lynn, decided to remove to Baltimore, Maryland, for the purpose of establishing a factory there, and he took with him a number of skilled workmen, with their families. Mrs. Garrison, who was known and beloved by them all, accepted an invitation to accompany them, taking her two boys with her, and the whole party embarked at Salem on the ninth of that month in the brig Edward, the journey by land being too formidable and expensive in those days to be thought of. The voyage was a rough one, lasting twelve days; but while Lloyd was so seasick that he lost all desire to lead a seafaring life, his mother proved herself a good sailor, and kept a log of their daily experiences in true nautical phrase. The narrative, which has been preserved, is curiously interspersed with solemn reflections on the miseries of this and the glories of the future life, and with humorous allusions to the sickness of the passengers and the terror of the women when a British sloop-of-war fired two guns to make the Edward haul to. [32]

For a while after they reached Baltimore she and her boys lived in Mr. Newhall's family, James being again apprenticed at shoemaking, and Lloyd making himself useful as best he could in doing errands and other light work. She had great influence with the young men employed by Mr. Newhall, and they came often to see her, and to listen to the moral and religious views with which she endeavored to impress them. They called her ‘Mother,’ and sixty years afterwards the last survivor10 of them spoke of her in terms of enthusiastic and grateful remembrance.

The shoe-factory proved a failure, and was abandoned after a few months, Mr. Newhall and his men returning to Lynn. Mrs. Garrison remained to take up the work of nursing again, and speedily won friends and patrons among the wealthy residents, of whose elegant summer retreats in the suburbs she wrote glowing descriptions. She attended church three times on Sunday, although she had to walk nearly two miles each time; and before the end of her first year in Baltimore she had established a women's prayer-meeting, which met every Saturday afternoon, and had the satisfaction of seeing it well attended.

Trials, sorrows, and disappointments nevertheless beset her path. Her son James, tired of the awl and last, ran away from his master and took to the sea, and Lloyd became so homesick for Newburyport that his mother had not the heart to keep him, for she, too, longed for the old home. Of Lloyd she wrote to Mrs. Farnham:

He is so discontented . . . that he would leave me 11 tomorrow and go with strangers to N. P.; he can't mention any of you without tears. He is a fine boy, though he is mine, and every Sunday he goes to the Baptist [church], although he has so far to walk. I expect he will be a complete Baptist as to the tenets. Mr. Newhall does not want to part with him, and Lloyd likes very well, but he longs to go back and go to school. I do hope he will always be so steady.

So Lloyd was sent back to Newburyport, and again made his home with the Bartletts, doing what a boy [33] of ten or eleven years could towards earning his board, and obtaining a little more (and what proved to be his final) schooling, at the Grammar School on the Mall.12 He was very happy in this, and in returning to the only place that had ever seemed like home to him, but his poor mother missed him sorely, and, as no situation could be found for him in Newburyport, she proposed, at the end of a year, that he should return to Baltimore. Her hope of securing a place for him there was, however, disappointed. Under date of August 29, 1817, she wrote to him as follows:

My dear son: Your kind letter came safe to hand, and it13 afforded me comfort. To hear of your welfare adds to my happiness, and receive my tender love and affection for your earnest solicitude in wishing to settle yourself to ease my burden. Your good behavior will more than compensate for all my trouble; only let me hear that you are steady and go not in the way of bad company, and my heart will be lifted up to God for you, that you may be kept from the snares and temptation of this evil world. I have no place at present in view, and being disappointed in placing you with Mr. Richards, I have concluded to let you remain another year at N. P. If any offer should occur in that place, and Uncle Bartlett should approve of it, I should wish you to accept it until a door should open here. If there is no place you can get, don't think I want to force you to a place to live. I should rather you would remain at your school, as I am much pleased with your improvement. I am not anxious for you to be here at present [owing to freshets, yellow fever, etc.]. . . . I have heard nothing from James. I do not know whether he is dead or alive.

May God protect you in all your undertaking! I do long to see you, and my heart is ofttimes full when I think of you, my dear Lloyd. Be a good boy and God will bless [you], and you have a Mother, although distant from you, that loves you with tenderness. I will do everything for you I can; it will be my greatest happiness to make you happy. Write soon to her who is your tender and affectionate

It is easy to see what influence such motherly epistles as these must have had upon the lad who was just entering [34] his teens, and to understand the love and reverence in which he ever held the memory of his parent. ‘I always feel like a little boy when I think of Mother,’ he used to say in after years; and he never doubted that he had her strengthening and inspiring influence, and her constant approbation, through all his stormy career. Many years after her death he thus wrote of her to his betrothed:

You speak of “a mother's love,” and ask, “What love is14 comparable to hers?” An allusion like this dissolves my heart, and causes it to grow liquid as water. I had a mother once, who cared for me with such a passionate regard, who loved me so intensely, that no language can describe the yearnings of her soul—no instrument measure the circumference of her maternal spirit. As to her person, I sum up my panegyric of it in the following original verse:

She was the masterpiece of womankind—
In shape and height majestically fine;
Her cheeks the lily and the rose combined;
Her lips—more opulently red than wine;
Her raven locks hung tastefully entwined;
Her aspect fair as Nature could design:
And then her eyes! so eloquently bright!
An eagle would recoil before their light.

But she was not remarkable for her personal attractions merely. Her mind was of the first order—clear, vigorous, creative, and lustrous, and sanctified by an ever-glowing piety. How often did she watch over me—weep over me—and pray over me! (I hope, not in vain.) She has been dead almost eleven years; but my grief at her loss is as fresh and poignant now as it was at that period. “O that my mother were living!” is often the exclamation of my heart. Alas! she cannot come to me.

After a time Lloyd was apprenticed to Moses Short, a cabinet-maker at Haverhill, Mass., who took the boy into his family and treated him with much kindness. The work was not unpleasant, and he soon learned to make a toy bureau and helped at veneering, but his old homesickness seized him, and he became so unhappy that, at the end of six weeks, he resolved to make his escape. Watching his opportunity, one morning when his master had gone to the shop, he tied his shirt and other worldly [35] possessions in a handkerchief, threw the bundle down among the pumpkin-vines from his window, and then, going down and recovering it, started for Newburyport on foot. He had calculated the time it would take him to cross the long bridge; and when the daily stage-coach overtook him he seized the rack behind, and ran and swung himself by turns to facilitate his progress. When the stage paused at a stopping-place, he trudged on until it again came along, and then repeated the operation, in this way accomplishing several miles. The passengers in the coach, meanwhile, were wondering how so small a lad could keep up with it. But the fugitive was missed at Haverhill, and, as he was wont to tell the story in after years, his master took a short cut by which he saved time and distance over the stage-road, and recaptured his apprentice. He bore him no ill-will, however, and, when Lloyd confessed his homesickness, promised to release him if he would only return to Haverhill and take his leave in a regular and proper manner, so that neither of them should be compromised. He kept his word, and Lloyd again took up his abode at Deacon Bartlett's.

In a letter written to James by his mother, about this time, she said,—‘I am trying to get Lloyd a place as15 house C[arpenter?], as he does not incline to go into a store. His reason is this: he says unless he has a capital when he is out of his time, he will not be able to commence business, but if he has a trade, he can go to work and help maintain his M[other]: a very good resolve for a child of fourteen.’

Repeated efforts were made to find a situation for him, but without success until the autumn of 1818, when Mr. Ephraim W. Allen, editor and proprietor of the Newburyport (semi-weekly) Herald, wishing a boy to learn the printer's trade, Lloyd was presented as a candidate for the place and accepted; and, having been duly apprenticed for the usual term of seven years, entered the printing-office of the Herald on the 18th of October, 1818.

1 Dwight's Travels in New England, 1.438-9.

2 Presumably, since the books of the Newburyport and Salem customhouses show no record of him as captain of any of the vessels sailing from those ports in 1805-1808. Yet he always bore that title.

3 Ms.

4 He probably went out in the James, Captain Dole.

5 Ms.

6 The following, which is the last known letter written by Abijah Garrison, was addressed to his cousin. Joanna Palmer, of Sheffield, on the St. John:

Waterborough, July the 27th, 1814.
Dear cousin: According to promise I have broken the Ice: or rather broke silence—after so long a time—and must apologise for this being the first from me, which I assure you was not from want of Respect, but principally from a barrenness of anything to address you upon, in Consequence of the Whirl I have taken in the World. I shou'd be happy to see you often, and hope you will Indulge us with your Company soon, at least this fall. I shou'd be happy of your Correspondence by letters & hope you will do me the favour to write as often as you Can: When you answer this I will write you a Sentimental piece. Wishing you the Blessings of Health,

I remain your affectionate

7 Ms.

8 This fact is recorded in the ‘common-place book’ of Wendell Phillips, as told him by Mr. Garrison in ‘Nov., 47, once when his boys had a molasses scrape.’ ‘So Luther sang at doors for pence,’ adds the chronicler.

9 Lib. 19.19.

10 Wm. Newhall, of Salem.

11 Ms. April 18, 1816.

12 The quaint little brick building, erected in 1796, is still standing (1885).

13 Ms.

14 Ms. June 21, 1834, to Helen E. Benson.

15 Ms.

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