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[p. 65]

Charles Cummings.

June 7, 1817—February 28, 1907.

Another member of our Historical Society, a beloved and honored citizen of Medford, has gone out from our midst,

to join
The innumerable caravan that moves
To the pale realms of shade.

Mr. Charles Cummings, was born in Hollis, N. H., June 7, 1817. He was the eighth of ten children of Thomas Cummings, who was of the eighth generation from Deacon Isaac Cummings, who, born about the year 1600, came to America on the ship Sarah Ann, somewhere about 1630, settling in Topsfield, Mass. The intervening links between this ancestor and his father, were John, John, Samuel, Samuel, Thomas, Thomas.

His early instruction must have been obtained in the schools of his native town, for among his cherished possessions is an old paper covered writing book, bearing at the bottom of several of its pages, in very immature chirography, these words,—Hollis, January, 1828. At the age of fourteen, he became clerk in the store of Col. D. M. G. Means, at Amherst N. H., where he remained until the death of his employer, in 1838, when he decided to fit himself for a professional life. Accordingly he entered Pepperel Academy as a preparation for college work. After two years study here, during which time he had served as an assistant pupil, he entered Dartmouth, in 1838.

During his preparatory and college courses, he taught in a district school six winters; and his senior autumn was spent as assistant in Kimball Union Academy, at Meriden, N. H.

He graduated from Dartmouth in 1842, in a class numbering 85, the largest in the history of the college, [p. 66] prior to the presidency of Dr. Tucker. Of this class but one is now living, Dr. John P. Perry of Exeter, N. H.

After his graduation, he was solicited to take charge of the Academy at Pepperel, which he did for a single term only, previous to entering the Theological Seminary at Andover. During the long vacation of 1843, he was a teacher in the Academy at Wakefield, N. H., and in May, 1844, he became principal of the Academy in Abington, Mass. The next year he returned to Andover and graduated in 1846, fully expecting to devote his life to the ministry; but his health having become impaired during his last term at the Theological School, it seemed better for him to defer, for a season at least, entering the ministry as he had planned, and to engage for a while in teaching, for which his previous experience had well fitted him.

At that time Medford was seeking a school master for the high school, and he was one of a score of applicants for the position. He was the choice of the committee; assumed his duties in 1846, and henceforth we find him closely identified with Medford in all her interests,— educational, religious, social and political.

It must have been while he was teaching in Abington that he became acquainted with the young lady who a few years afterward became his wife. April 4, 1848, he was married to Elizabeth Lavinia Dyer, who was born in South Abington (now Whitman) August 16, 1817, and died in Medford, February 3, 1899. They had one son, George Dyer, now City Auditor of Medford.

Mrs. Cummings was a direct descendant from Peregrine White, born on the Mayflower on its passage to America. She was a very estimable and talented lady, the author of many beautiful poems, which seemed to flow as easily from her mind as the ink from her pen. One of these, ‘He doeth all things well’ was set to music and became a very popular song.

After thirty successful and profitable years in the Medford high school, during which time it became one of [p. 67] the best known high schools in the state, Mr. Cummings, feeling much handicapped by impaired hearing, decided that he ought, for the best welfare of the school, to resign his position; and that he did in 1876. That he was very highly esteemed by the Medford School Committee is clearly shown in their report for that year, from which the following is copied.—

High School.

The resignation of Mr. Charles Cummings, after thirty years of distinguished service as principal of this school, marks an era in its history. No man has contributed so much as he to bring the school up from its small beginnings to its present position of usefulness and honor. Our predecessors have paid constant tribute to his fidelity and efficiency, and the present Board has taken pains to enter upon the record of its transactions its high estimate of his character and services.

If, in describing the influence which this excellent teacher has exercised over the youth of this town, we should quote the words of old John Lyly, written three hundred years ago, setting forth the considerations which should govern a parent in the selection of a tutor for his children, all would acknowledge their truth, and their beautiful application to the pure minded man, to whom the town has intrusted, for so many years, the sacred charge of its children. We may be excused for giving them here, as we are confident that their quaintness will in no degree impair their meaning or force.—

It is an old proverbe that if one dwell the next doore to a cripple, he will learn to hault; if one be conversant with an hypocrit, he will soone endeavour to dissemble. When a childe shall grow in years and be of that ripenesse that he can conceive learning, insomuch that he is to be committed to the tuityon of some tutour, all dillygence is to be had to search for such a one as shall be neither unlearned, neither ill-lyved, neither a lyght person.

A good and discreete schoolemaster should be such an one as Phoenix was, the instructor of Achilles, whom Pelleus (as Homer reporteth) appoynted to that ende that he should be unto Achilles not only a teacher of learning, but an ensample of good lyving. But that is most principally to be looked for, and most dilligently to be foreseene, that such tutors be sought out for the education of a young childe, whose lyfe hath never bene stayned with dishonestie, whose good name hath never bene called into question, whose manners have bene irreprehensible before the world. As husbandmen hedge in their trees, so should good schoolemasters with good manners hedge wit and disposition of the scholar, whereby the blossoms of knowledge may the sooner encrease.

[p. 68]

This tribute to Mr. Cummings' attainments and fidelity was given more than thirty years ago, and he has never in the intervening years, given occasion for one single word to be erased from it; exemplary and faithful and lovable to the end of his long and useful life.

He was greatly interested in promoting the welfare of Medford. In 1855, he was one of three appointed to consider the advisability of establishing a public library. It was founded mainly through his efforts, and he was one of its first trustees, and for several years served as its librarian.

Since his retirement, he has been very active with his pen, writing much local history; reminiscences of the old stage coach and Middlesex Canal days; sketches of the town from 1850 to 1860. He was of great assistance to Mr. Usher in his revision of the old Brooks' History of Medford,—has written a history of the Medford High School,—has collected and tabulated complete genealogical records of his ancestors from 1630, and of his wife's family from the days of the Pilgrims in Holland. The Medford Historical Society is indebted to him for a very interesting and valuable paper, giving a very comprehensive history of the Mystic Congregational Church, of which he was clerk for 36 years, and deacon and faithful and honored member during his sixty years residence in the town. He was a true Christian, a humble follower of the Master, genial, cheery and optimistic ever:—very fond of his friends, cherishing a strong affection for his old pupils, dearly loving his Alma Mater, and keeping in touch with his college classmates by visits or correspondence:—ever loyal to the town of his adoption, never losing his keen interest in her welfare, even when the infirmities of advancing years forced him to give up active work in her behalf. Only a few months more and he would have reached the four-score-and-ten mark; and with mental faculties undimmed, as alert to friendship as of old, cheerful and hopeful, he patiently awaited the ‘call of the Reaper.’ Just a few hours before [p. 69] the summons came, in very feeble tones, he said to his pastor:—‘I am glad you have come to see me in my last hour,’ and shortly afterward, calmly and peacefully as he had lived, he took his departure from this world which had been made better and brighter from his passage through it.

‘They rest from their labors and their works follow them.’

When the pulses of life beat faint and slow,
And the spirit is struggling and pants to go,
The richest baubles that tempt below
But deepen the gathering gloom;
But light divine with heavenly ray
Will guide the soul on the radiant way
To the clime of the blest forever and aye
To live in Eternity's bloom.

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