Chapter 3: Cincinnati, 1832-1836.
- Dr. Beecher called to Cincinnati. -- the westward journey. -- first letter from home. -- description of Walnut Hills. -- starting a new school. -- inward glimpses. The Semi-colon Club. -- early impressions of slavery. -- a journey to the East. -- thoughts aroused by first visit to niagara. -- marriage to Professor Stowe.
In 1832, after having been settled for six years over the Hanover Street Church in Boston, Dr. Beecher received and finally accepted a most urgent call to become President of Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati. This institution had been chartered in 1829, and in 1831 funds to the amount of nearly $70,000 had been promised to it provided that Dr. Beecher accepted the presidency. It was hard for this New England family to sever the ties of a lifetime and, enter on so long a journey to the far distant West of those days ;, but being fully persuaded that their duty lay in this direction, they undertook to perform it cheerfully and willingly. With Dr. Beecher and his wife were to go Miss Catherine Beecher, who had conceived the scheme of founding in Cincinnati, then considered the capital of the West, a female college, and Harriet, who was to act as her principal assistant. In the party were also George, who was to enter Lane as a student, Isabella, James, the youngest son, and Miss Esther Beecher, the Aunt Esther of the children.  Before making his final decision, Dr. Beecher, accompanied by his daughter Catherine, visited Cincinnati to take a general survey of their proposed battlefield, and their impressions of the city are given in the following letter written by the latter to Harriet in Boston:--
Here we are at last at our journey's end, alive and well. We are staying with Uncle Samuel (Foote), whose establishment I will try and sketch for you. It is on a height in the upper part of the city, and commands a fine view of the whole of the lower town. The city does not impress me as being so very new. It is true everything looks neat and clean, but it is compact, and many of the houses are of brick and very handsomely built. The streets run at right angles to each other, and are wide and well paved. We reached here in three days from Wheeling, and soon felt ourselves at home. The next day father and I, with three gentlemen, walked out to Walnut Hills. The country around the city consists of a constant succession and variety of hills of all shapes and sizes, forming an extensive amphitheatre. The site of the seminary is very beautiful and picturesque, though I was disappointed to find that both river and city are hidden by intervening hills. I never saw a place so capable of being rendered a paradise by the improvements of taste as the environs of this city. Walnut Hills are so elevated and cool that people have to leave there to be sick, it is said. The seminary is located on a farm of one hundred and twenty-five acres of fine land, with groves of superb trees around it, about two miles from the city. We have finally decided on the spot where our house  shall stand in case we decide to come, and you cannot (where running water or the seashore is wanting) find another more delightful spot for a residence. It is on an eminence, with a grove running up from the back to the very doors, another grove across the street in front, and fine openings through which distant hills and the richest landscapes appear. I have become somewhat acquainted with those ladies we shall have the most to do with, and find them intelligent, New England sort of folks. Indeed, this is a New England city in all its habits, and its inhabitants are more than half from New England. The Second Church, which is the best in the city, will give father a unanimous call to be their minister, with the understanding that he will give them what time he can spare from the seminary. I know of no place in the world where there is so fair a prospect of finding everything that makes social and domestic life pleasant. Uncle John and Uncle Samuel are just the intelligent, sociable, free, and hospitable sort of folk that everybody likes and everybody feels at home with. The folks are very anxious to have a school on our plan set on foot here. We can have fine rooms in the city college building, which is now unoccupied, and everybody is ready to lend a helping hand. As to father, I never saw such a field of usefulness and influence as is offered to him here.This, then, was the field of labor in which the next eighteen years of the life of Mrs. Stowe were to be passed. At this time her sister Mary was married and living in Hartford, her brothers Henry Ward and  Charles were in college, while William and Edward, already licensed to preach, were preparing to follow their father to the West. Mr. Beecher's preliminary journey to Cincinnati was undertaken in the early spring of 1832, but he was not ready to remove his family until October of that year. An interesting account of this westward journey is given by Mrs. Stowe in a letter sent back to Hartford from Cincinnati, as follows:--
Well, my dear, the great sheet is out and the letter is begun. All our family are here (in New York), and in good health. Father is to perform to-night in the Chatham Theatre! “positively for the last time this season!” I don't know, I'm sure, as we shall ever get to Pittsburgh. Father is staying here begging money for the Biblical Literature professorship; the incumbent is to be C. Stowe. Last night we had a call from Arthur Tappan and Mr. Eastman. Father begged $2,000 yesterday, and now the good people are praying him to abide certain days, as he succeeds so well. They are talking of sending us off and keeping him here. I really dare not go and see Aunt Esther and mother now; they were in the depths of tribulation before at staying so long, and now,Writing from Philadelphia, she adds:--In the lowest depths, another deep!Father is in high spirits. He is all in his own element, -dipping into books; consulting authorities for his oration; going round here, there, everywhere; begging, borrowing, and spoiling the Egyptians; delighted with past success and confident for the future.  Wednesday. Still in New York. I believe it would kill me dead to live long in the way I have been doing since I have been here. It is a sort of agreeable delirium. There's only one thing about it, it is too scattering. I begin to be athirst for the waters of quietness.
Well, we did get away from New York at last, but it was through much tribulation. The truckman carried all the family baggage to the wrong wharf, and, after waiting and waiting on board the boat, we were obliged to start without it, George remaining to look it up. Arrived here late Saturday evening,--dull, drizzling weather; poor Aunt Esther in dismay,--not a clean cap to put on,--mother in like state; all of us destitute. We went, half to Dr. Skinner's and half to Mrs. Elmes's: mother, Aunt Esther, father, and James to the former; Kate, Bella, and myself to Mr. Elmes's. They are rich, hospitable folks, and act the part of Gaius in apostolic times. . . . Our trunks came this morning. Father stood and saw them all brought into Dr. Skinner's entry, and then he swung his hat and gave a “ hurrah,” as any man would whose wife had not had a clean cap or ruffle for a week. Father does not succeed very well in opening purses here. Mr. Eastman says, however, that this is not of much consequence. I saw to-day a notice in the “ Philadelphian” about father, setting forth how “ this distinguished brother, with his large family, having torn themselves from the endearing scenes of their home,” etc., etc., “were going, like Jacob,” etc.,--a very scriptural and appropriate flourish. It is too much after the manner  of men, or, as Paul says, speaking “ as a fool.” A number of the pious people of this city are coming here this evening to hold a prayer-meeting with reference to the journey and its object. For this I thank them.From Downington she writes:--
Here we all are,--Noah and his wife and his sons and his daughters, with the cattle and creeping things, all dropped down in the front parlor of this tavern, about thirty miles from Philadelphia. If to-day is a fair specimen of our journey, it will be a very pleasant, obliging driver, good roads, good spirits, good dinner, fine scenery, and now and then some “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs;” for with George on board you may be sure of music of some kind. Moreover, George has provided himself with a quantity of tracts, and he and the children have kept up a regular discharge at all the wayfaring people we encountered. I tell him he is peppering the land with moral influence. We are all well; all in good spirits. Just let me give you a peep into our traveling household. Behold us, then, in the front parlor of this country inn, all as much at home as if we were in Boston. Father is sitting opposite to me at this table, reading; Kate is writing a billet-doux to Mary on a sheet like this; Thomas is opposite, writing in a little journal that he keeps; Sister Bell, too, has her little record; George is waiting for a seat that he may produce his paper and write. As for me, among the multitude of my present friends, my heart still makes occasional visits to absent ones,visits full of pleasure, and full of cause of gratitude to Him who gives us friends. I have thought of you  often to-day, my G. We stopped this noon at a substantial Pennsylvania tavern, and among the flowers in the garden was a late monthly honeysuckle like the one at North Guilford. I made a spring for it, but George secured the finest bunch, which he wore in his buttonhole the rest of the noon. This afternoon, as we were traveling, we struck up and sang “Jubilee.” It put me in mind of the time when we used to ride along the rough North Guilford roads and make the air vocal as we went along. Pleasant times those. Those were blue skies, and that was a beautiful lake and noble pine-trees and rocks they were that hung over it. But those we shall look upon “na mair.” Well, my dear, there is a land where we shall not love and leave. Those skies shall never cease to shine, the waters of life we shall never be called upon to leave. We have here no continuing city, but we seek one to come. In such thoughts as these I desire ever to rest, and with such words as these let us “comfort one another and edify one another.”
Harrisburg, Sunday evening. Mother, Aunt Esther, George, and the little folks have just gathered into Kate's room, and we have just been singing. Father has gone to preach for Mr. De Witt. To-morrow we expect to travel sixty-two miles, and in two more days shall reach Wheeling; there we shall take the steamboat to Cincinnati.On the same journey George Beecher writes:--
We had poor horses in crossing the mountains. Our average rate for the last four days to Wheeling was forty-four miles. The journey, which takes the  mail-stage forty-eight hours, took us eight days. At Wheeling we deliberated long whether to go on board a boat for Cincinnati, but the prevalence of the cholera there at last decided us to remain. While at Wheeling father preached eleven times,--nearly every evening, -and gave them the Taylorite heresy on sin and decrees to the highest notch; and what amused me most was to hear him establish it from the Confession of Faith. It went high and dry, however, above all objections, and they were delighted with it, even the old school men, since it had not been christened “heresy” in their hearing. After remaining in Wheeling eight days, we chartered a stage for Cincinnati, and started next morning. At Granville, Ohio, we were invited to stop and attend a protracted meeting. Being in no great hurry to enter Cincinnati till the cholera had left, we consented. We spent the remainder of the week there, and I preached five times and father four. The interest was increasingly deep and solemn each day, and when we left there were forty-five cases of conversion in the town, besides those from the surrounding towns. The people were astonished at the doctrine; said they never saw the truth so plain in their lives.Although the new-comers were cordially welcomed in Cincinnati, and everything possible was done for their comfort and to make them feel at home, they felt themselves to be strangers in a strange land. Their homesickness and yearnings for New England are set forth by the following extracts from Mrs. Stowe's answer to the first letter they received from Hartford after leaving there :-- 
During this early Cincinnati life Harriet suffered much from ill-health accompanied by great mental depression; but in spite of both she labored diligently with her sister Catherine in establishing their school. They called it the Western Female Institute, and proposed to conduct it upon the college plan, with a faculty of instructors. As all these things are treated at length in letters written by Mrs. Stowe to her friend,  Miss Georgiana May, we cannot do better than turn to them. In May, 1833, she writes:--
Bishop Purcell visited our school to-day and expressed himself as greatly pleased that we had opened such an one here. He spoke of my poor little geography,1 and thanked me for the unprejudiced manner in which I had handled the Catholic question in it. I was of course flattered that he should have known anything of the book. How I wish you could see Walnut Hills. It is about two miles from the city, and the road to it is as picturesque as you can imagine a road to be without “springs that run among the hills.” Every possible variety of hill and vale of beautiful slope, and undulations of land set off by velvet richness of turf and broken up by groves and forests of every outline of foliage, make the scene Arcadian. You might ride over the same road a dozen times a day untired, for the constant variation of view caused by ascending and descending hills relieves you from all tedium. Much of the wooding is beech of a noble growth. The straight, beautiful shafts of these trees as one looks up the cool green recesses of the woods seems as though they might form very proper columns for a Dryad temple. There! Catherine is growling at me for sitting up so late; so “adieu to music, moonlight, and you.” I meant to tell you an abundance of classical things that I have been thinking to-night, but “woe's me.”  Since writing the above my whole time has been taken up in the labor of our new school, or wasted in the fatigue and lassitude following such labor. To-day is Sunday, and I am staying at home because I think it is time to take some efficient means to dissipate the illness and bad feelings of divers kinds that have for some time been growing upon me. At present there is and can be very little system or regularity about me. About half of my time I am scarcely alive, and a great part of the rest the slave and sport of morbid feeling and unreasonable prejudice. I have everything but good health. I still rejoice that this letter will find you in good old Connecticut-thrice blessed--“oh, had I the wings of a dove” I would be there too. Give my love to Mary H. I remember well how gently she used to speak to and smile on that forlorn old daddy that boarded at your house one summer. It was associating with her that first put into my head the idea of saying something to people who were not agreeable, and of saying something when I had nothing to say, as is generally the case on such occasions.Again she writes to the same friend:
Your letter, my dear G., I have just received, and read through three times. Now for my meditations upon it. What a woman of the world you are grown. How good it would be for me to be put into a place which so breaks up and precludes thought. Thought, intense emotional thought, has been my disease. How much good it might do me to be where I could not but be thoughtless. . . . Now, Georgiana, let me copy for your delectation  a list of matters that I have jotted down for consideration at a teachers' meeting to be held to-morrow night. It runneth as follows. Just hear! “ About quills and paper on the floor; forming classes; drinking in the entry (cold water, mind you); giving leave to speak; recess-bell, etc., etc.” “You are tired, I see,” says Gilpin, “so am I,” and I spare you. I have just been hearing a class of little girls recite, and telling them a fairy story which I had to spin out as it went along, beginning with “ once upon a time there was,” etc., in the good old-fashioned way of stories. Recently I have been reading the life of Madame de Stael and “ Corinne.” I have felt an intense sympathy with many parts of that book, with many parts of her character. But in America feelings vehement and absorbing like hers become still more deep, morbid, and impassioned by the constant habits of selfgovernment which the rigid forms of our society demand. They are repressed, and they burn inward till they burn the very soul, leaving only dust and ashes. It seems to me the intensity with which my mind has thought and felt on every subject presented to it has had this effect. It has withered and exhausted it, and though young I have no sympathy with the feelings of youth. All that is enthusiastic, all that is impassioned in admiration of nature, of writing, of character, in devotional thought and emotion, or in the emotions of affection, I have felt with vehement and absorbing intensity,--felt till my mind is exhausted, and seems to be sinking into deadness. Half of my time I am glad to remain in a listless vacancy, to busy myself with trifles, since thought is pain, and emotion is pain. During the winter of 1833-34 the young schoolteacher became so distressed at her own mental listlessness that she made a vigorous effort to throw it off. She forced herself to mingle in society, and, stimulated by the offer of a prize of fifty dollars by Mr. James Hall, editor of the Western monthly, a newly established magazine, for the best short story, she entered into the competition. Her story, which was entitled Uncle lot, afterwards republished in the “Mayflower,” was by far the best submitted, and was awarded the prize without hesitation. This success gave a new direction to her thoughts, gave her an insight into her own ability, and so encouraged her that from that time on she devoted most of her leisure moments to writing. Her literary efforts were further stimulated at this time by the congenial society of the Semi-Colon Club, a little social circle that met on alternate weeks at Mr. Samuel Foote's and Dr. Drake's. The name of the club originated with a roundabout and rather weak bit of logic set forth by one of its promoters. He said: “You know that in Spanish Columbus is called ‘ Colon.’ Now he who discovers a new pleasure is certainly half as great as he who discovers a new continent. Therefore if Colon discovered a continent, we who have discovered in this club a new pleasure should at least be entitled to the name of ‘ Semi-Colons.’ ” So Semi-Colons they became and remained for some years. At some meetings compositions were read, and at others nothing was read, but the time was passed in a general discussion of some interesting topic previously announced. Among the members of the club were  Professor Stowe, unsurpassed in Biblical learning; Judge James Hall, editor of the Western monthly; General Edward King; Mrs. Peters, afterwards founder of the Philadelphia School of Design; Miss Catherine Beecher; Mrs. Caroline Lee Hentz; E. P. Cranch; Dr. Drake; S. P. Chase, and many others who afterwards became prominent in their several walks of life. In one of her letters to Miss May, Mrs. Stowe describes one of her methods for entertaining the members of the Semi-Colon as follows:--
I am wondering as to what I shall do next. I have been writing a piece to be read next Monday evening at Uncle Sam's soiree (the Semi-Colon). It is a letter purporting to be from Dr. Johnson. I have been stilting about in his style so long that it is a relief to me to come down to the jog of common English. Now I think of it I will just give you a history of my campaign in this circle. My first piece was a letter from Bishop Butler, written in his outrageous style of parentheses and foggification. My second a satirical essay on the modern uses of languages. This I shall send to you, as some of the gentlemen, it seems, took a fancy to it and requested leave to put it in the “ Western Magazine,” and so it is in print. It is ascribed to Catherine, or I don't know that I should have let it go. I have no notion of appearing in propria persons. The next piece was a satire on certain members who were getting very much into the way of joking on the worn-out subjects of matrimony and old maid and old bachelorism. I therefore wrote a set of legislative enactments purporting to be from the ladies of  the society, forbidding all such allusions in future. It made some sport at the time. I try not to be personal, and to be courteous, even in satire. But I have written a piece this week that is making me some disquiet. I did not like it that there was so little that was serious and rational about the reading. So I conceived the design of writing a set of letters, and throwing them in, as being the letters of a friend. I wrote a letter this week for the first of the set, easy, not very sprightly,--describing an imaginary situation, a house in the country, a gentleman and lady, Mr.Howard and Mrs. Howard, as being pious, literary, and agreeable. I threw into the letter a number of little particulars and incidental allusions to give it the air of having been really a letter. I meant thus to give myself an opportunity for the introduction of different subjects and the discussion of different characters in future letters. I meant to write on a great number of subjects in future. Cousin Elisabeth, only, was in the secret; Uncle Samuel and Sarah Elliot were not to know. Yesterday morning I finished my letter, smoked it to make it look yellow, tore it to make it look old, directed it and scratched out the direction, postmarked it with red ink, sealed it and broke the seal, all this to give credibility to the fact of its being a real letter. Then I inclosed it in an envelope, stating that it was a part of a set which had incidentally fallen into my hands. This envelope was written in a scrawny, scrawly, gentleman's hand. I put it into the office in the morning, directed to “ Mrs. Samuel E. Foote,” and then sent word to Sis that  it was coming, so that she might be ready to enact the part. Well, the deception took. Uncle Sam examined it and pronounced, ex cathedra, that it must have been a real letter. Mr. Greene (the gentleman who reads) declared that it must have come from Mrs. Hall, and elucidated the theory by spelling out the names and dates which I had erased, which, of course, he accommodated to his own tastes. But then, what makes me feel uneasy is that Elisabeth, after reading it, did not seem to be exactly satisfied. She thought it had too much sentiment, too much particularity of incident,she did not exactly know what. She was afraid that it would be criticised unmercifully. Now Elisabeth has a tact and quickness of perception that I trust to, and her remarks have made me uneasy enough. I am unused to being criticised, and don't know how I shall bear it.In 1833 Mrs. Stowe first had the subject of slavery brought to her personal notice by taking a trip across the river from Cincinnati into Kentucky in company with Miss Dutton, one of the associate teachers in the Western Institute. They visited an estate that afterwards figured as that of Colonel Shelby in “Uncle Tom's Cabin,” and here the young authoress first came into personal contact with the negro slaves of the South. In speaking, many years afterwards, of this visit, Miss Dutton said:
Harriet did not seem to notice anything in particular that happened, but sat much of the time as though abstracted in thought. When the negroes did funny things and cut up capers, she did not seem to pay the slightest attention to them.  Afterwards, however, in reading “Uncle Tom,” I recognized scene after scene of that visit portrayed with the most minute fidelity, and knew at once where the material for that portion of the story had been gathered.At this time, however, Mrs. Stowe was more deeply interested in the subject of education than in that of slavery, as is shown by the following extract from one of her letters to Miss May, who was herself a teacher. She says:--
We mean to turn over the West by means of model schools in this, its capital. We mean to have a young lady's school of about fifty or sixty, a primary school of little girls to the same amount, and then a primary school for boys. We have come to the conclusion that the work of teaching will never be rightly done till it passes into female hands. This is especially true with regard to boys. To govern boys by moral influences requires tact and talent and versatility; it requires also the same division of labor that female education does. But men of tact, versatility, talent, and piety will not devote their lives to teaching. They must be ministers and missionaries, and all that, and while there is such a thrilling call for action in this way, every man who is merely teaching feels as if he were a Hercules with a distaff, ready to spring to the first trumpet that calls him away. As for division of labor, men must have salaries that can support wife and family, and, of course, a revenue would be required to support a requisite number of teachers if they could be found. Then, if men have more knowledge they have less  talent at communicating it, nor have they the patience, the long-suffering, and gentleness necessary to superintend the formation of character. We intend to make these principles understood, and ourselves to set the example of what females can do in this way. You see that first-rate talent is necessary for all that we mean to do, especially for the last, because here we must face down the prejudices of society and we must have exemplary success to be believed. We want original, planning minds, and you do not know how few there are among females, and how few we can command of those that exist.During the summer of 1834 the young teacher and writer made her first visit East since leaving New England two years before. Its object was mainly to be present at the graduation of her favorite brother, Henry Ward, from Amherst College. The earlier part of this journey was performed by means of stage to Toledo, and thence by steamer to Buffalo. A pleasant bit of personal description, and also of impressions of Niagara, seen for the first time on this journey, are given in a letter sent back to Cincinnati during its progress. In it she says of her fellow-travelers:--
Then there was a portly, rosy, clever Mr. Smith, or Jones, or something the like; and a New Orleans girl looking like distraction, as far as dress is concerned, but with the prettiest language and softest intonations in the world, and one of those faces which, while you say it is n't handsome, keeps you looking all the time to see what it can be that is so pretty about it. Then there was Miss B., an independent, good-natured, doasI-please sort of a body, who seemed of perpetual motion  from morning till night. Poor Miss D. said, when we stopped at night, “ Oh, dear! I suppose Lydia will be fiddling about our room till morning, and we shall not one of us sleep.” Then, by way of contrast, there was a Mr. Mitchell, the most gentlemanly, obliging man that ever changed his seat forty times a day to please a lady. Oh, yes, he could ride outside,--or, oh, certainly, he could ride inside,--he had no objection to this, or that, or the other. Indeed, it was difficult to say what could come amiss to him. He speaks in a soft, quiet manner, with something of a drawl, using very correct, well-chosen language, and pronouncing all his words with carefulness; has everything in his dress and traveling appointments comnme ilfaut; and seems to think there. is abundant time for everything that is to be done in this world, without, as he says, “ any unnecessary excitement.” Before the party had fully discovered his name he was usually designated as “ the obliging gentleman,” or that gentleman who is “so accommodating.” Yet our friend, withal, is of Irish extraction, and I have seen him roused to talk with both hands and a dozen words in a breath. He fell into a little talk about abolition and slavery with our good Mr. Jones, a man whose mode of reasoning consists in repeating the same sentence at regular intervals as long as you choose to answer it. This man, who was finally convinced that negroes were black, used it as an irrefragible argument to all that could be said, and at last began to deduce from it that they might just as well be slaves as anything else, and so he proceeded till all the philanthropy of our friend was roused, and he sprung up all lively and oratorical and gesticulatory and indignant  to my heart's content. I like to see a quiet man that can be roused.In the same letter she gives her impressions of Niagara, as follows:--
I have seen it (Niagara) and yet live. Oh, where is your soul? Never mind, though. Let me tell, if I can, what is unutterable. Elisabeth, it is not like anything; it did not look like anything I expected; it did not look like a waterfall. I did not once think whether it was high or low; whether it roared or did n't roar; whether it equaled my expectations or not. My mind whirled off, it seemed to me, in a new, strange world. It seemed unearthly, like the strange, dim images in the Revelation. I thought of the great white throne; the rainbow around it; the throne in sight like unto an emerald; and oh! that beautiful water rising like moonlight, falling as the soul sinks when it dies, to rise refined, spiritualized, and pure. That rainbow, breaking out, trembling, fading, and again coming like a beautiful spirit walking the waters. Oh, it is lovelier than it is great; it is like the Mind that made it: great, but so veiled in beauty that we gaze without terror. I felt as if I could have gone over with the waters; it would be so beautiful a death; there would be no fear in it. I felt the rock tremble under me with a sort of joy. I was so maddened that I could have gone too, if it had gone.While at the East she was greatly affected by hearing of the death of her dear friend, Eliza Tyler, the wife of Professor Stowe. This lady was the daughter of Dr. Bennett Tyler, president of the Theological Institute of Connecticut, at East Windsor; but twenty-five  years of age at the time of her death, a very beautiful woman gifted with a wonderful voice. She was also possessed of a well-stored mind and a personal magnetism that made her one of the most popular members of the Semi-Colon Club, in the proceedings of which she took an active interest. Her death left Professor Stowe a childless widower, and his forlorn condition greatly excited the sympathy of her who had been his wife's most intimate friend. It was easy for sympathy to ripen into love, and after a short engagement Harriet E. Beecher became the wife of Professor Calvin E. Stowe. Her last act before the wedding was to write the following note to the friend of her girlhood, Miss Georgiana May:--