Lorin Low Dame. 1838-1903.
by Charles H. Morss.[Read before the Medford Historical Society, March 16, 1903.]
To be glad of life, because it gives you the chance to love and to work and 10 play and to look up at the stars; to be satisfied with your possessions, but not contented with yourself until you have made the best of them; to despise nothing in the world except falsehood and meanness, and to fear nothing except cowardice; to be governed by your admirations rather than by your disgusts; to covet nothing that is your neighbor's except his kindness of heart and gentleness of manners; to think seldom of your enemies, often of your friends, and every day of Christ; and to spend as much time as you can, with body and with spirit, in God's out-of-doors—these are little guide-posts on the footpath to peace.—Henry Van Dyke.A genial disposition, broad sympathies, a deep love for mankind, always seeking some good in everyone, and an intense enjoyment of life—these qualities, which Lorin Low Dame possessed to a remarkable degree, caused all to love him and to be the better for his noble, wholesome presence among us. It is given to but few to exert a power so wide, so strong, so potent for good as his. Thinking little of self, not too highly estimating his own power, he wielded an influence so great that he himself would have been astonished could he have realized its extent. The thirty-five hundred pupils who, in Medford alone, came under his care and guidance, bear witness to the great love and veneration in which he was held, and we in this city, together with those other communities that have shared his life and have felt his presence, mourn the loss of our firm friend, our enthusiastic co-worker and the loyal citizen. The best summing up of his personal qualities is in these words of the Rev. Henry C. DeLong, at the funeral service in the First Parish Church:— [p. 26]
I am moved to say what we all feel when we try to make an estimate of a friend we have profoundly loved, that a man is more than the sum of his qualities. For in him these are fused into a personality, and so become much more than they are when they stand apart as separate elements of his character. Eminently is this true of our friend whom we now recall, who was notably a man whose personal force entered into his whole life and his work in life. Intellectual and moral power was distinctly his characteristic. A man of large and wide intelligence, he did not live in a narrow world of special studies. If it is the danger of a teacher to be only a teacher, to limit himself to the studies which are his particular task, he escaped from this limitation by becoming an all-round mind. Science, history and literature formed parts of his culture, and you were struck with his thorough knowledge of them. A lover of the best literature he was also a good critic of it, and was master of a fine style of writing and speaking, which had both force and delicacy of expression. And this was irradiated by a delightful sense of humor whose pleasant surprises, penetrating suggestion and unlooked — for allusion added charm to his conversation and speech. But his was a sweet and wholesome nature, without taint of bitterness and cynicism, and his lighter moods never wounded or left a sting behind.Lorin Low Dame, the only child of Samuel and Mary Ann (Gilman) Dame, was born in Newmarket, N. H., March 12, 1838. He was a direct descendant in the ninth generation from John Dame, one of the first and substantial settlers of Dover, N. H., the line being Samuel8, John7, Samuel6, Moses5, John4, John3, John2, John1. Through his mother, he was descended from Governors Thomas Dudley and Simon Bradstreet of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and also from Gov. Wiggin of New Hampshire. In 1846, when he was eight years old, his parents removed to Lowell, Mass., and here, on the banks of the Merrimack, for which he always had a great and sentimental affection he grew to manhood. He was familiar with the picturesque beauty of this magnificent river for miles, and was fond of returning there with his family and friends, that they, too, might enjoy with him these charming spots. It is a great pleasure to recall the [p. 27] pleasant rambles we had together along the banks of this beautiful river, below Hunt's Falls, visiting the old familiar scenes of his childhood. Those of us whose lot it was to be reared on the banks of this stream can appreciate his devotion to the home of his boyhood, and say with Whittier:— Yet wheresoe'er his step might be,
Thy wandering child looked back to thee!
Heard in his dreams thy river's sound
Of murmuring on its pebbly bound,
The unforgotten swell and roar
Of waves on thy familiar shore;
And saw, amidst the curtained gloom
And quiet of his lonely room,
Thy sunset scenes before him pass.
At the age of twelve years he entered the Lowell High School and pursued the general course of study intended for those who were not going to college. But, later, he changed his plans and returned to the school to take the college preparatory work. Thus, he was a pupil of the high school for six years—from 1850 to 1856. To most boys brought up apart from the artificial life of the crowded city there comes, as if by instinct, the desire to collect, and in his rambles by the river and through the fields about Lowell he began that study of nature at first hand that was such a joy to him through life. The study of insects fascinated him, and, while still a student in the high school, he became very familiar with entomology and had made a considerable collection. Trees and other forms of plant life also came under his observation, so that, even at this time, the beginnings of what later became his special studies were made. In adult life it became a matter of principle with him that in order to keep the heart young and sympathetic one must have absorbing interests apart from the business or profession by which the daily bread is won. In all these avocations that he followed he was no dilettante, but a thorough student. It was during this [p. 28] period that he mastered the principles of phonography, and became an expert writer of shorthand, an added power which he found serviceable through life. He entered Tufts College in the summer of 1856, after a brilliant record as a student in the high school, and continued to add to his laurels during his course. President Capen, a classmate in college, says:—
As a scholar he was remarkable, one of the most remarkable whom I have ever known. He was not one of those brilliant sons of genius who go by intuition, almost with the swiftness of light, and by a process which they themselves cannot explain, right to the heart of great matters. He was a persistent, patient, plodding, faithful and conscientious student. He never wasted his time in idleness, and never took his powers for granted. But when it came to the test of the classroom, he was absolutely accurate and absolutely clear. He was equally good in all subjects. I never knew him to fail in anything. Indeed, in all my experience, whether as student or teacher, I have never known more than three or four men who could be put in the same class with him.Throughout his college course the choice of a profession came frequently to mind for serious reflection, and his journals show that much thought was given to this point. Several different lines of usefulness were presented to him for consideration. One request came to enter the office of a physician as assistant and student, another to pursue his avocation of entomology as a serious business by turning his attention to musuem work as an entomologist. But none of these seemed to appeal to him. His mother's earnest desire was that her only son should fit himself for the Christian ministry, and he gave much careful consideration to this wish of hers, although he had grave doubts of his fitness for this profession. To satisfy both his own mind and his mother on this point, he resolved to preach as opportunity offered, and toward the end of his junior year his first sermon was preached in the village of East Lexington, and thereafter he continued to do supply work, preaching in his home church in Lowell, in Weston, Shirley and Essex. In order to provide the means for his college expenses, [p. 29] he, for several years, had taught the winter term of school, as so many young men of his time did. We find no record when his first service as teacher was rendered, but he has frequently mentioned the fact that he taught his first school at the age of seventeen, which would place the date the year before entering college, or 1855. We find, however, that he taught the winter term of 1857–'58 in Westford, Mass., and the two following winters in the town of Dracut. While in college he was interested in all the best activities of college life, and although holding the first rank in his class, found time for the various social duties that come into every career. He was not a recluse. An active member of the Zeta Psi fraternity while a student, he always held fondly to the old associations and kept an interest in fraternity affairs all through life. When a chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa society was organized at Tufts he was one of the first members. He was graduated from college in 1860, the first scholar in the class, and, as was the custom, was assigned for a commencement part the valedictory. He was yet undecided as to his life work, but as he had had considerable experience in the schoolroom as teacher, he naturally turned to that as an immediate means of livelihood, while giving further consideration to this important question. He received the appointment as principal of the Braintree High School, where he taught with much success till the summer of 1862, when he had made choice of the law as his future profession. He accordingly resigned and entered a law office in Lowell. The gloomy days of 1862, caused by the various disasters to the Union forces during the latter part of the year, produced their effect upon him. The blood of his patriotic forefathers was stirred. His ancestor, Capt. Samuel Brocklebank, hastened to the defence of the New England homes against the Indians in King Philip's war, and met his death in the famous Sudbury fight; another, Chaplain Moses Coffin of Newbury, ‘the drum [p. 30] ecclesiastic,’ whose life was saved from a French bullet by the Bible in his pocket, did valiant service for his country at the taking of Louisburg. Mr. Dame could not resist his country's call in her deepest need. His Lowell home had been broken up by the removal of his father and mother to California some time before, and there was nothing to hold him back. He enlisted February 9, 1863; was commissioned second lieutenant and served as recruiting officer at Fort Warren, where he was instrumental in organizing the Fifteenth Massachusetts Light Battery. Although engaged in these warlike preparations, and hastening forward with all speed possible the time of departure for the seat of active war, he yet found time for the gentler arts of peace and the subtle claims of love, and on March 1, 1863, he married Nancy Isabel, daughter of John Bass and Nancy B. (Thayer) Arnold of Braintree, who had been one of his pupils in the high school at Braintree. The Fifteenth Battery was soon ordered south, and with them he sailed from Boston for New Orleans, March 9, on the ship Zouave, arriving April 9. On the third of June they were sent to garrison two forts commanding the approaches to New Orleans by land; one on a marshy island, formed by Bayou St. John, commanding the bayou road to Lake Pontchartrain, and the other at Gentilly, on the New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain Railroad, both being situated about five miles from the city and two from the lake. Officers and men alike suffered much from the ills resulting from the proximity of the swamps, and for some weeks he was in command of both forts, being the only officer not in the hospitals. But he too succumbed to that scourge of the swamps, chills and fever, and was obliged to spend a few weeks of this first summer in the hospital. On his recovery he was ordered to duty at the recruiting office in the city and remained at this post till October 21. He had been promoted to the rank of first lieutenant September [p. 31] 27. Toward the end of the year he was at Lakeport, La., and on January 2, 1864, accompanied an expedition to Madisonville, on the north side of Lake Pontchartrain. Throughout the year his company was engaged in helping hold the territory on both sides of the Mississippi that had been acquired with so much difficulty previous to the fall of Vicksburg. After the expedition to Madisonville they again returned to New Orleans for guard duty. During this interval the monotony of garrison life was cheered by a visit of several months from his wife, whom he had left the year before, a bride of a week. On October 17, they embarked for the mouth of the White river in Arkansas. An expedition up this river was made one hundred ninety miles to Devall's Bluff, which occupied the time till the end of November, when they returned and encamped in the suburbs of Memphis, Tenn. Early in January, 1865, they returned to Louisiana and took up their position at Kennerville, some miles above New Orleans. Changes of camp are the only matters of activity recorded in the journals till February 20, when the battery embarked on Lake Pontchartrain and sailed for Mobile Bay, thence to Barrancas, Fla. Here they joined the Second Division, Thirteenth Army Corps, under Major-General C. C. Andrews, and on March 11, proceeded to Pensacola. Although the forts commanding Mobile Bay had been reduced by Admiral Farragut the preceding August, the city of Mobile still held out, and the movements in this section were directed to that end. From Pensacola the route was northward along the Escambia river. On March 25, the Fifteenth Battery was engaged in the battle of Escambia Creek. Thence the route lay through the pine barrens, till Blakely was reached. The siege of this place was begun on the second day of April, and the battery then received an experience of vigorous fighting for which they had longed ever since they had come south. The works were carried by assault on April 9, the same day that Lee surrendered at Appomattox, and [p. 32] on the eleventh, with the news of this surrender came also the news that the enemy were evacuating the city of Mobile. They were afterwards sent on an expedition into the interior of Alabama as far as Selma, where they remained on guard till May 11, returning then to Mobile for garrison duty there. From June 3 till the mustering out of the battery at Readville, Mass., Lieut. Dame was in command. On June 30 they turned over their property to the government and went to Dauphin Island in Mobile Bay to await orders to return home. On July 21 they embarked at New Orleans on board the Ashland for New York, where they arrived on the thirty-first. They reached camp at Readville, Mass., August i, and were mustered out on the fourth. On the fourteenth of August, 1865, Lieut. Dame became once more a private citizen. Again the choice of a profession confronted him. His law studies, early interrupted by his country's call had not progressed far enough to be of practical use, and his marriage made it necessary for him now to enter some business that would give immediate support. The unsettling influence of army life rendered this a difficult decision, and before he finally settled down, he tried various lines of activity. Making his home at Braintree, he engaged in literary work, reporting for the daily papers, writing sketches, stories and essays. At the same time he was reading law. He also engaged in the insurance business, did private teaching, and, in fact, turned his attention to any form of honorable employment that would furnish a means of livelihoods On his birthday, March 12, 1866, he writes: ‘I am twenty-eight years old and have hardly made a beginning in life; nevertheless, I have a clean record, and strong hopes of the future.’ This hopefulness for the future is a characteristic with which we who knew him in his later life have always been impressed. April 6, 1866, he sought and obtained the position of principal of the high school in Lexington, and began his [p. 33] duties there on the tenth of the same month. He had not wholly, and did not for several years, relinquish his intention to enter upon the practice of law, and we find from his journal and notes that during all the time he was teaching at Lexington he was pursuing his law studies. He also was very active in his literary work, writing stories and essays, likewise perfecting himself in stenography. It was while teaching here that he first took up with enthusiasm the study of systematic botany, and laid the foundations for those later works that will be his enduring monument. In the summer of 1867 he left Lexington, to take charge as principal of the Nantucket High School, where he remained two years. Here he kept up the same lines of activity as in Lexington—reading law, practicing stenography, writing for papers and magazines, and botanizing. In the summer of 1869 he removed to Stoneham, having been chosen principal of the high school of that place. From this time his journals are silent on the subject of his law studies, and having given up all idea of other occupation than his school and literary work, he devoted himself assiduously to these to make them as successful as possible. The fact that he now had two children to care for, in addition to his other duties, probably was influential in deciding him to abandon his intention of entering the legal profession. But the giving up of these studies left him time for others, and to aid him in his scientific work we find him working diligently, taking lessons in German, French, mineralogy, conchology, etc. In fact, he was almost never without some study, in addition to his botany, to which he had now become a devotee. The public library was a special care for him, and, as a member of the Board of Trustees, he devoted a large amount of time to advancing its interests and making it more useful to the community. While living in Stoneham he became a member of the local Post of the Grand Army. [p. 34] In the summer of 1876 he was appointed to the Medford High School, and from that time his life was lived peacefully but forcefully in our midst, and grew to be such a part of us that it seemed as if he had always belonged to us. The vacation of 1880 was spent in a walking tour through England and Scotland in company with his friend, Mr. George S. Hatch of Medford. He labored to the very end in the interests of this community, and to him in the full vigor of life, with unabated mental power, death came suddenly on January 27, 1903. Arising in the morning to prepare for his daily school work, he seemed in usual health, but before he had made himself ready for breakfast, he complained of vertigo and was persuaded to lie down for a short time. The usual symptoms of apoplexy appeared, and before long he became unconscious, and at 5.30 P. M. the end came, his wife and three of his four daughters being with him at the time. He was a devoted member of the First Parish (Unitarian) Church, and gave largely of his sympathy and interest to the advancement of liberal Christianity. He served the parish as a member of the parish committee, and was one of the founders of the Unitarian Club connected with the church, serving for two years as its president. His work as teacher is well known to such a large body of the citizens of Medford that any comment can only chronicle matters with which all are perfectly familiar. He possessed remarkable powers as an instructor, training his pupils to habits of careful observation, exactness of thought, and logical deduction. He expected scholars to draw their own conclusions, and, having formed them, to be ready to stand by and defend them. He was specially skilful in making independent thinkers and actors, not only by his specific training, but by example. In the words of President Capen: ‘He was an example to his pupils; he lived before them day by day a simple, honest, manly, pure, and upright life. In this way he was a constant and never-failing inspiration.’ In [p. 35] his capacity as teacher he became a member of the Massachusetts Schoolmasters' Club, and of the High Schoolmasters' Club. Through all his adult life he was engaged in some form of literary work. The result of much of this was published, but, besides these, a large collection of manuscript stories, essays, and addresses testify to his unremitting zeal. While in Stoneham he was a regular correspondent for some of the Boston papers, and also special correspondent for Nantucket during the summer months. Although he always wrote over his own name on scientific subjects, he frequently used a non de plume for his poems, essays and stories; among those used being F. Gerry, F. M. Arnold, and Viator. Articles from his pen are found in the Congregationalist, Gospel Banner, Our Continent, Good Times, Ladies' Repository, Bay State Monthly, besides several of the daily papers. Of especial interest are his articles in the Bay State Monthly on ‘The Washington Elm and the Eliot Oak,’ February, 1884, as foreshadowing the greater work-‘Typical Elms and Other Trees of Massachusetts,’ which came several years later. In November, 1884, he contributed to the Bay State Monthly a carefully prepared paper on the Middlesex Canal. This same was later revised and appeared in its new form in the Medford Historical Register in 1897. His style of writing is well indicated in this article—clear, concise, and with a smoothness that pleases. The organization of the Middlesex Institute, which he was instrumental in founding, gave definiteness and direction to his scientific studies, and fixed in him a more definite purpose for greater undertakings than any he had tried before. His position as president of the Middlesex Institute gave him an intimate acquaintance with the leading botanists of the region, and soon he, in collaboration with Mr. Frank S. Collins of Malden, undertook the preparation of a Flora of Middlesex County, which was published in 1888. This is a carefully prepared [p. 36] list, with descriptions where necessary, of the plants growing wild in the limits of the county, and its preparation involved extensive research in the published botanical literature, as well as a careful study of herbaria, and numberless botanical excursions. So careful was the preparation that it stands today among the most accurate of such catalogues. In ‘The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table,’ Oliver Wendell Holmes said:
I wish that somebody would get up the following work: Sylva Anglica. photographs of New England elms and other trees, taken upon the same scale of magnitude. With letter-press descriptions by a distinguished literary gentleman.Mr. Dame had always been a careful observer of trees; he may be said to have been a lover of them. In his notes, taken when on the march through the swamps of Louisiana, on his trips up and down the White river in Arkansas, and along the Mississippi, in the pine barrens of Florida, and in the higher regions of Alabama, are frequent comments on the trees. In the preface to his ‘Typical Elms and Other Trees of Massachusetts,’ he says:
The call of the Autocrat, in the August number of the Atlantic, 1858 . . . expressed so general a desire that it is a wonder the work has not been previously undertaken. From that date, the historian of this volume has looked over the announcements of publishers for the required prospectus; he has had an eye also on the big trees, but with no idea of turning biographer. Within a radius of ten or a dozen miles from his residence he has struck up a close acquaintance with every tree of note, his pleasures enlarging from year to year with the ever-widening circle of his forest friends. In the summer of 1886 the historian fell in with the photographer, and the scheme outlined by the Autocrat began to assume a vague consistency.The photographer mentioned was Mr. Henry Brooks of West Medford, with whom he worked in preparing the book. The labor of collecting the material was great, [p. 37] but it was finally published in 1890. As the work was of such magnitude as to make it an expensive publication, the subscription was limited to five hundred copies, but in spite of the cost, the edition was soon exhausted, and it is now impossible to purchase a single copy. The introduction was written by Oliver Wendell Holmes, to whom was due the inspiration that led to the making of the book. No sooner was one task completed than another was already planned and well started. His ‘Typical Elms’ was scarcely before the public when his notes show that observations had for some time been recorded for his last and greatest work, ‘Handbook of the Trees of New England,’ which he also brought out in collaboration with Mr. Henry Brooks. This is fully illustrated with plates carefully prepared from living specimens by Mrs. Elizabeth Gleason Bigelow of Medford. The entire range of our native trees is given in detail with illustrations of buds, leaves, flowers and fruit. The text was prepared with great pains; every part was carefully scrutinized, revised many times after being submitted to the best experts on the subject, until the final product is a book accurate in almost every particular, and one admirably adapted to the use intended. His love for nature led him to spend his summer vacations in places where he could enjoy her to the best advantage. The majority of them for the last thirty years were spent on the island of Nantucket, mainly in the village of Siasconset. He also made excursions several times into the Maine woods. The summer of 1900 was passed with his family in Nova Scotia and a part of 1902 in Newfoundland, where in both places he botanized extensively and added largely to his collections. From his interest in science in general he became a member of the Middlesex Institute and of the Natural History Society of Boston. He was one of the founders of the New England Botanical Club and an active member at the time of his death. [p. 38] His Alma Mater appreciated the judicial and well balanced mind, and in 1894 elected him to the Board of Trustees. Later he was one of the executive committee of that body, holding this office at the time of his death. The degree of A. M. had been conferred on him in 1866, and in 1895 Tufts honored herself as well as him by bestowing the degree of S. D. in recognition of his distinguished service to botanical science. Of his service to the Medford Historical Society only brief mention need be made. He was so closely associated with the founding of the society and with its whole active life that all recognize his devotion to the ideals for which the society stands. Thus has passed a life noble and unselfish, progressive without ostentation, loving and loved, to its close. Life's race well run,
Life's work all done,
Life's victory won,
Now cometh rest.
Principals of Medford High School, 1835-1903.Charles Mason, 1835; Luther Farrar, 1835–'36; Daniel Forbes, 1836–'41; Isaac Ames, 1841–'44; M. T. Gardner, 1844; Edwin Wright, 1844–'45; James Waldock, 1845–'46; Charles Cummings, 1846–‘76; Lorin L. Dame, 1876-1903; Leonard J. Manning, 1903.
Errata.Vol. 6, last five lines p. 17, and first two lines p. 18 should read: Mr. [Benjamin] Moore, in company with John Fall, a shipsmith, and J. T. Barker, a teamster, took the business of Alexander Gregg (see vol. 5, p. 93) after his death. Mr. Moore was killed by being caught between two cars while unloading freight at the Boston & Lowell railroad in West Medford. Mr. James Winneck succeeded Mr. James B. Gregg in the grocery business.