Address of F. M. Hawes at Memorial service October 31, 1909.
My personal relations with Charles D. Elliot
were not of many years' standing.
We were brought together, especially, as members and fellow-workers of the Somerville Historical Society.
I can say I never came away from an interview with him without feeling I had learned something of historical interest; without being enriched by his estimate of men, or his wide knowledge of affairs.
Our tastes along historical lines and our views of life I found to be so congenial that I rejoiced greatly to have found in such a kindred spirit one who, by his enthusiasm and his fuller grasp of subjects, could lead me farther on the road which I had chosen.
We all miss his companionship and cheer, and his loss to this Society is irreparable.
In selecting from the copious notes supplied me by the family, I may fail to touch upon all the salient features of his life, although even the minutest details have proved interesting to me.
A few words in relation to his boyhood.
He used to like to tell that he was born the same day Victoria
(June 20, 1837). Being an only child for nearly ten years may have tended to make him sober-minded and serious beyond his years.
His mother wished him to be a minister, and he was offered a scholarship in Tufts College when he was about twenty, but he declined, as he did not feel that he was fitted for that profession.
But some very precocious religious meditations, written at the age of eight, show that, for a time, at least, his mother had very fertile ground to work upon.
He had a fondness for standing on the church steps near his home and preaching, with any book he could get hold of for a Bible.
One day, when he was much younger than eight, he took his father's new dictionary to preach from, but, becoming interested in something else, he left the book on the steps, where he forgot all about it. A long rain followed, much to the damage of the dictionary.
He could be as mischievous as other children, and once gave the teacher of the first school he attended so much trouble that she shut him up in the kindling closet, and, forgetting all about him, was locking up to go home for the night, when his mother came to look for him, as it was past the hour for his return.
The frightened teacher hastened to open the door, and there he lay, fast asleep.
His first public speech before any considerable audience was on the occasion of his first attendance at church.
As he became restless, he was allowed to stand up on the pew seat, and was given his mother's fan. Soon, loud enough to be plainly heard, and holding up the fan, he said: ‘See, mamma, I make it into two pieces!’
When very small, he was taken on a long drive to visit relatives in Vermont
Seeing a squirrel run across the road, he was sure it must be a bear, and wanted his father to get him a gun to shoot it with.
When older grown he was very fond of a gun, and of shooting at a target, and became a very good marksman.
As a young man he was athletic.
He attended the gymnasium of Dr. Winship
, and was once able to lift a weight of 1,000 pounds,
At school he was generally called on when visitors were present to ‘speak his pieces’ for their edification.
It was the custom then for the boys to learn a selection of their own choosing, and to speak every Friday afternoon. At one time the teacher complained that the selections were too short.
Accordingly, several of the boys arranged to have very long ones.
committed to memory twenty pages of Scott
's ‘Marmion,’ and when his turn came, got as far, we will say, as the eighteenth, when the teacher asked how much longer he was going to speak, as there were several others to be heard from, and he did not wish to stay all night.
There were no further objections to short selections after that.
When in his teens, he belonged to several debating clubs, and was well versed in Cushing
At the age of sixteen, or thereabouts, he was Secretary
of the Cambridge Library Association, most of whose members were men of mature years.
He was connected with the Franklin Literary Association before he was twenty, and at one time was its secretary.
A Shakespeare Club of four members used to vie with each other to see who could produce the greatest volume of sound, ‘trying,’ as he used to say, ‘to raise the roof with their oratory.’
From a lad Mr. Elliot
was fond of using tools.
The Fitchburg Railroad had machine and carpenter shops near Union Square then, and he was always welcomed by the men and allowed to use any tools which he wished.
Among other things, he made the patterns and castings for a turning lathe, which he kept by him for many years.
When a small boy, he drew excellent maps and could letter them well, being self-taught.
This probably led to his entering the engineer office of Mr. Stearns
when he was eighteen, at the close of his high school course.
At school he had taken lessons in drawing, and delighted in sketching.
Several of his sketches, which are still preserved, show considerable artistic ability and much care and skill.
The same could be said of his engineering plans and charts, and of his maps.
handiwork of some of these, not a few of which, reduced in size, have appeared in historical works, makes them veritable works of art.
But Mr. Elliot
's artistic ability was not limited to drawing and sketching; he often wrote poetry, especially in his earlier years.
Some of these efforts possessed considerable merit, and gave evidence of a delicacy of feeling and a fineness of touch.
He was so modest, however, that he could not be prevailed upon to submit his poems for publication, and rarely showed them to any but members of the family.
For the Good Templars
, a temperance organization in which he was early interested, he wrote at least one occasional poem, entitled ‘The Templars.’
was so fond of fun that rhyming squibs flowed from his pen without effort.
The few that have been preserved serve to illustrate an agreeable side of his nature.
We should not do full justice to our subject, now that we are brought to this point of view, if we failed to speak of Mr. Elliot
's social nature.
It is no disparagement of a man to say that he is known to many of his friends and hailed by them by his Christian name.
was fond of good company, and his fund of stories gave him an easy entrance to the inner circle.
He loved a joke hugely, as long as it was a pleasant one, but he did not approve of those made at the expense of some one's feelings.
Another trait, known to those who associated with him, was his natural refinement.
For anything bordering on coarseness or vulgarity he felt only abhorrence and contempt.
A mind as active as Mr. Elliot
's could not fail to be possessed of considerable originality and imagination.
New ideas were constantly suggesting themselves, new projects were ever urging to some untried effort.
These fields were varied and wide, and related not only to his profession, but to business enterprises of various kinds.
Often they were schemes for improving existing conditions or advancing the public welfare; specific improvements in politics and government.
He had many subjects stored away for magazine articles, and would
have liked, with a time of leisure, to enter the lecture field.
These topics afforded interesting subjects for conversation when he met with a congenial friend.
Many of these were drawn from history, but not all.
The range of his interests was wide, but, as those who knew him well need not be told, his chief interests, aside from his profession, were connected with the subjects of history and the public welfare.
His public spirit and keen insight into human needs were dominating features of his character.
He was interested in great public movements for the improvement of the race in all quarters and among all conditions of men. Characterized by sincerity of purpose and disinterestedness, he advocated measures from conviction, and always acted from principle, not for effect or for popularity.
He was a man of the highest integrity.
In connection with his devotion to historical matters, we ought to mention his fondness for looking over old records.
He rarely went on a vacation without choosing some place where there were records which he wished to consult, and a large part of a holiday was spent over them.
His love of genealogical research began early, and continued to the very end.
As a recreation, and for refreshment after the toils of the day, Mr. Elliot
found time for reading and keeping abreast of the times.
His literary menu was extensive, and besides history and biography, included travels, scientific researches, archaeological expeditions, a little fiction, and much poetry.
He loved to read poetry aloud.
Sometimes he would read a serious poem in comic fashion, to create a laugh.
‘The last time was on Thanksgiving night, when surrounded by his family.
He had been poorly all day. Just as he was about to retire for the night, he was urged to give a reading, some one saying “it would not seem like Thanksgiving without it.”
He turned back and read for an hour in his happiest vein, winding up with Grey
's “Elegy,” read in such an amusing way as quite to change its character, and leave every one laughing.
Two weeks later and he was gone, never to return.’
In connection with his reading, we ought to mention that he was a great admirer of the first Napoleon
, and collected all the books he could find about him.
was a collector in the real sense of the word.
He loved books, especially old books, and was fond of attending book auctions.
His library numbers several thousand volumes, largely, but by no means wholly, scientific and historical.
Among his treasures of a purely literary character is a de luxe
edition of Longfellow
, who was perhaps his favorite poet.
One volume which he loved to exhibit to those who cared for such things was printed in 1492.
He was greatly interested in Arctic explorations, and owned the works of some of the earlier explorers in those fields.
was a high authority on certain kinds of books, especially on Americana.
He knew the best authorities, the excellencies and weaknesses of well-known writers, as well as those of lesser note.
He knew about the different editions of authors and their market value.
Besides his library, he had an interesting collection of autographs, some of which were attached to documents of historic value.
Among his autographs were the signatures of several signers of the Declaration of Independence
, that of George Washington
, and several other Presidents
He was particularly pleased to secure an original Revolutionary company's pay-warrant, bearing the signature of General William Heath
and his under officer, Captain Thomas Urann
(one of Mrs. Elliot
's ancestors). At one time Mr. Elliot
had a valuable collection of postage stamps; he also possessed rare coins of all nations, and a relic collection which included Indian arrow-heads (one of which was found on his own home lot), a Revolutionary cannon ball, South Sea Island weapons, pistols once owned by Ethan Allen, etc. In connection with the study of geology, he once gathered together a very creditable cabinet of minerals.
He always placed a high value on such heirlooms as chanced to come to his branch of the family, whether it were
furniture, china, or other things.
Like Mr. Hardcastle
, he loved everything old. Among these heirlooms was a New England
Primer, used by his grandfather, Joel Elliot
, in 1784 or thereabouts.
Our friend was greatly interested in the law, and was well versed in some of its points.
He was told more than once by men of the legal profession that, with a little study, he might easily be admitted to the bar. More than that, he was an authority on certain branches of the law.
Upon the legal aspects of his professional endeavor he always entered with a keen zest, whether called upon as an expert witness, or to negotiate, out of court, settlements for damages to estates.
Because of his interest in the success of his clients, his keen perception of the drift of the opposing counsel's attack, and his coolness on the witness stand, his services were highly valued, and were not uncommonly sought afterwards by the lawyer or corporation against whom he had happened to be called.
Many times he was sought by the other side of the same case, after he had engaged himself to the first comer.
On one occasion it was a question of certain rights between a railroad and a town.
(The case did not come into the courts.) At a preliminary meeting the railroad's counsel offered to give the town a quit-claim deed of the railroad's rights.
, who was engaged for the town, said: ‘Sir, I will give you a quit-claim deed of the whole X Y Z railroad system.’
Asked what he meant, he replied: ‘I will release to you all my right in the railroad.
That is all a “quit-claim” means.’
As witness for the Fitchburg Railroad in an accident case, at a crossing where there were fully 600 yards of clear track visible on either side of the station, he was asked by counsel for the plaintiff: ‘Do you mean to tell this jury that this man could have seen that train coming?’
Using a legal phrase which carries great weight, Mr. Elliot
replied: ‘Yes, I think he could have done so by using “due care.”
This reply did not please the opposition counsel, who thundered: ‘Does the Fitchburg Railroad pay
you for manufactur
‘Why, they always have paid my bills heretofore; I presume they will not refuse this time,’ was the easy reply, and the innocent smile which accompanied it caused mirth in the court room.
's services were occasionally called for in the appraising of estates.
Because of the large number of plans which he had made of our city lots, and his knowledge of their history, a knowledge which went back in many instances to the days of the ‘Stinted Commons,’ and the first grants, no one had a better standard of land values.
The secret of his knowledge in this, as well as in other fields, lay not alone in his excellent memory, but in the painstaking and accurate methods by which he had come at the knowledge.
Whatever he was engaged upon, he always made thoroughness and accuracy the main objects.
He used to say that he wanted whatever he did to be done right.
Accordingly, he was never satisfied until he obtained the perfect result.
It will not be denied, I think, that Mr. Elliot
lacked selfappreciation, and often set too light a value on his own abilities.
Partly for this reason, and partly because he was too ready to trust some of those he dealt with, other people often reaped the benefit of his efforts.
One of his best traits was his desire to think the best of his fellow-men.
He was always ready to take time, even when very busy with important affairs, to help people who came for information or advice; he thus gave freely what had cost him much time and effort.
People were constantly seeking such help, not merely his friends, but sometimes entire strangers.
He has been known to write for people articles or speeches which of course passed as their own compositions.
Sometimes he revised other people's writings, often an entire book, but always as an accommodation.
He never asked nor would he have accepted remuneration for such work.
Not infrequently he assisted men professionally.
Too modest to place a sufficiently high value on his own services and experiences, he put off too long making a record
of much that he had learned, much that was well worth preserving, and which no one else can reproduce.
When urged to write his war experiences, he would say: ‘Oh, nobody will be interested in them.’
He was much surprised by the great attention which his articles on ‘The History of Somerville
’ received when they appeared in the Somerville Journal
some years ago.
The following letter from Mrs. Elliot
will serve to throw light on Mr. Elliot
's life in Louisiana
As a description of a wedding journey, it deserves to be copyrighted:—
My parents emigrated to Wisconsin Territory in 1836 from New England. Mr. Hyer was made a judge of probate, and was a member of the State Constitutional Convention.
His health demanding a warmer climate, he moved to St. Louis, Mo., in 1847 or 1848, and in 1854-5 to Texas.
The breaking out of the Civil War found us in Louisiana, about sixty miles north of New Orleans, where Judge.
Hyer's too outspoken Union sentiments made him a “marked man” by the Rebels.
He had many friends, however, who aided him on several occasions when plots were laid against him. In the fall of 1862 we closed up our home, determined to reach New Orleans, then in control of the Union Army.
At Madisonville, a small town near Lake Ponchartrain, we waited three weeks for a chance to cross to the city.
Finally a small schooner loaded with charcoal arrived, which had received a permit from Richmond to cross, as they wished to send over some spies.
By bribing the corporal of the Rebel guard to send off his men an hour early, we got our chance to go on board before daylight, and before dark the same day reached the entrance to the canal leading up to New Orleans.
Before we were allowed to land we had to take an oath of allegiance to the United States, although we were Unionists.
Judge Hyer went immediately to General Butler and showed him his plans of Eastern Louisiana, where we had been residing.
Judge Hyer had been obliged to give up practicing law on account of his health, and had gone into surveying and
General Butler appointed Mr. Hyer on his Engineering staff.
When General Banks superseded General Butler in the command of New Orleans, December, 1862, Mr. Elliot and Judge Hyer met in the Engineering Department, and Judge Hyer invited Mr. Elliot and several other young men to his home to introduce them to the Union people of the city, of whom there were many.
September 3, 1863, Mr. Elliot and myself were married.
During the ceremony an orderly was seen coming up the aisle of the church, making straight for us. He would have interrupted the ceremony to deliver his orders, if he had not been intercepted by Judge Hyer, who took the order, with the assurance that he would give it to Mr. Elliot himself.
It proved to be an order to prepare immediately to join an expedition under General Franklin, who was then his engineer officer, to a destination unknown, which sailed the next day, and expected to be gone six months or more.
They sailed up Sabine River, the boundary between Texas and Louisiana, were beaten back by a small fort, aided by the oyster banks in the river, on which two of our gunboats got aground under the guns of the fort.
General Franklin's force, scattered and demoralized, returned to New Orleans, after an absence of eight days, but the headquarters ship, the Suffolk, on which Mr. Elliot was, was run into by another ship in the darkness during the retreat.
The lights were out to prevent the Rebels from pursuing them with “cotton clad” boats.
The two ships lay side by side, crashing into each other for some time before any one had sense enough to separate them.
The wheel house on the Suffolk was crushed, and the boat was said to be sinking.
Nearly all on board, including General Franklin and most of his staff, and the ship's officers and crew, jumped over into the other ship.
Mr. Elliot said he could not see that the Suffolk settled any, and all who jumped over to the other ship were likely to be crushed between the two, as they crashed together every few minutes.
Mr. Elliot and a few others, about a dozen in all, including the ship's engineer,
stayed on board, and reached New Orleans in safety after three days, during which time they endured much hardship and danger.
They encountered a storm, and the ship was badly shattered, but they reached the shelter of the Mississippi River before the storm reached its height.
This was Mr. Elliot's wedding journey, taken alone.
About seven months later we came to Massachusetts, by way of the Gulf and Atlantic, as the Rebels still held the intervening territory.
The following will not be out of place here: Mrs. Elliot
was born in Union, Rock county, Wis.
, November 23, 1843.
She was a teacher in one of the grammar schools of New Orleans, and secretary of the Union Ladies
' Soldiers' Aid Society of that city, of which her mother (Mrs. Hyer
) was president.
This was one of the first organizations of the kind in the Southern
's own father was David Ring, Jr., who was born in Sumner, Me.
, April 7, 1801, and died in Wisconsin
in June, 1874.
He married, June 24, 1824, Mary, daughter of John, Jr., and Mary (Urann
She was born in Bangor, Me.
, in 1806, and died in Wisconsin
October 13, 1846. Mr.Elliot
and Mrs. Elliot
were married by Rev. F. E. R. Chubbuck
, post chaplain and officiating clergyman at Christ Church, New Orleans.
This was a double wedding, the other couple being George Hay Brown
, one of the photographers belonging to the Engineer Corps, and Miss Lizzie Sakaski
, a friend of Mrs. Elliot
Historical Society was incorporated in 1898, and Mr. Elliot
was the first president after incorporation, having served as a vice-president before that time from the formation of the Society.
In 1898 the Society rented the Oliver Tufts House
on Sycamore Street as its headquarters, and in the early winter of that year gave the Historical Festival
, in connection with which a relic exhibition at their headquarters was a successful feature, and one in which Mr. Elliot
was very active.
He was also a leading spirit in a similar exhibition held at the Somerville High School in 1892, the year of the Semi-Centennial of the city.
It would be impossible to give full credit to Mr. Elliot
's devotion to this Society.
From its formation to the end of his busy life, we who were present at his last meeting with us can truly say that he was the father of this organization.
Not only was he a cheerful giver of his valuable time when called to serve upon committees and as a member of the Council, but every member went away from a literary meeting feeling that the evening had been enriched when Mr. Elliot
, as was his invariable custom, illuminated the subject in hand from his storehouse of historical information.
Often he would bring from his collections at home books, maps, autographs, or pictures, many of them of unique value, to illustrate the topic of the evening.
Then, too, by his ready wit, his fondness for making a pun, or his skill at repartee, he sent us all home with a smile or a laugh at what in him seemed so innate, so purely spontaneous.
He was a type of the true genial gentleman.
At times he was called before other historical societies to read some of his papers, and I well remember the keen pleasure these visits afforded him, and the luminous report he would bring home from a sister organization.
A case in point occurred two seasons ago, when he was entertained at the magnificent old mansion, ‘The Buttonwoods,’ the home of the Haverhill Historical Society.
Perhaps no truer estimate of the man whose memory we love to cherish could be given than was twice expressed by the Somerville Journal
, once of the living, July 28, 1905, and again on the occasion of Mr. Elliot
's death, in its issue of December 11, 1908.
‘To mention the name of Charles Darwin Elliot
is to call attention to one of the most active and prominent residents of Somerville
during the whole of its municipal career.
For nearly sixty years he has known Somerville
, and during almost all of that time he has been a resident of the town and city . . . . His life has been a busy one from his earliest youth.
As a boy he could run a mile in five and one-quarter minutes.
He did things then, and he can do them now, although he has completed
his sixty-eighth year.
In the fullness of years, he is still engaged in civil engineering, which has been his life work.
His has been an experience equaled by few men in the profession.’
And again at the time of Mr. Elliot
's death: ‘His career was remarkable for its usefulness to the nation and to the community.
No man in the city was more conversant with Somerville
history, and this fund of general information was always at the disposal of the public.
Geniality was characteristic of the kindly-natured man, who was most happy when among his friends, and his entertaining reminiscences were frequently interspersed with amusing stories and witty speeches.
He had an intense interest in the public welfare.
In the family circle he was a tender husband and father.
His death deprives Somerville
of one of its most upright citizens, whose achievements in his chosen profession, in the realm of history, and in his private life will preserve an honored memory. . . . Besides his public service as the first City Engineer, and in the various organizations in which he was an active member, he was easily first of all men in his knowledge of Somerville
For years . . . his literary talent and much of his time were devoted to preparing papers and arranging documentary material that had to do with the early days of Somerville
With him goes much valuable and interesting historical information which can never be replaced. . . . He was public-spirited in the highest degree.
He was the man at whose suggestion the Somerville Journal
was established, and from the early days of the city until his death he was actively concerned with projects looking towards the betterment of the city.
His presence will be missed in many companies.
Kindly, cheerful, entertaining, and talented, a man of high integrity and spotless character, he leaves a whole city to sympathize with his bereaved family.’