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Full text of "Col. William Kent, Concord, N. H"

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Col. WILLIAM KENT 



CONCORD, N.H. 



1793 



1886 






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THE LATE COLONEL WILLIAM KENT. " 



\_Fro»t the Concord "Monitor .""l 

Colonel William Kent, the oldest native male resident 
of Concord for several years past, died at the home of his 
daughter, Mrs. Mary Kirkvi^ood Hallock, at Cromwell, near 
Middletown, Conn., on Thursday, August 12, at 9.30 A.M., 
at the age of ninety-three years, four months, and ten days. 

Colonel Kent, up to the middle of last September, en- 
joyed remarkable health for a man of his years, and was 
almost daily seen upon Main Street, and in some of its busi- 
ness places. After that time, he was confined to his room in 
the Phenix Hotel until the 24th of last March, when he was 
taken to Cromwell by two of his sons, in order that he might 
receive the care of his daughter in his enfeebled condition. 
He bore the journey well, and evidently enjoyed the change. 
He continued to fail gradually, however, as the result of ex- 
treme age; and, about a week before his death, it became 
apparent that his end was near, as his vital powers weak- 
ened rapidly, and he lost consciousness of his friends. He 
passed away quietly, the sands of his long life having run 
completely out. 

William Kent was the eldest child of William Austin and 
Charlotte Mellen Kent, and was born in Concord, April 2, 
1793. His recollection of events dated back into the last cen- 
tury ; and one of the most notable of these, and one which he 
recalled often with pleasure, was of his marching, as one of the 
school children of the town, to the old North Church, which 
stood on the site of the present Walker School-house, to listen 
to the memorial services on the occasion of the death of Gen- 
eral George Washington. At the age of about thirteen, he 



was sent to Atkinson Academy, then a noted school. While 
a pupil of that inslitution, he made the journey home on 
horseback, in company with the post-rider, who took the 
horse from Concord to Atkinson for him to return on, to 
hear Daniel Webster deliver a Fourth of July oration in 
Concord. Mr. Webster was the guest of his father on that 
occasion ; and Colonel Kent used to describe with minute- 
ness the appearance of Mr. Webster as he drove in a chaise 
to his father's house on Pleasant Street, and his fine pres- 
ence as a young orator. 

Colonel Kent's grandfather and paternal great-grand- 
father were both sea-captains, and possibly this gave him an 
inclination for a seafaring life. At the age of about nine- 
teen, he went on a voyage to Liverpool, as supercargo, with 
the expectation of following the sea. He returned from this 
voyage in such robust health that his friends hardly recog- 
nized him at first. The war of 1812, with its embargo, 
ended his sea-voyaging, however, and he soon after engaged 
in trade, in which he continued for some twenty-five years. 
The early files of the Statesman contain his advertisements 
of hardware, West India goods, groceries, dye-stuffs, paints 
and oils, iron and steel, etc. His place of business was on 
Main Street, in a building that occupied the site of Henry C. 
Sturtevant's store. 

He was chosen secretary of the New Hampshire Mutual 
Fire Insurance Company, after the death of Albe Cady, in 
1843, and held that position until the company closed busi- 
ness several years afterward. Of this company, his father 
was president at the time of its organization in 1825, and 
his brother George was treasurer. He was a trustee of the 
New Hampshire Savings Bank at the time of its organiza- 
tion in 1830, and so continued for several years. He served 
as alderman from Ward 6 in 1856 and 1857. 

One of the most interesting events in Colonel Kent's life 
was his connection with the military display on the occasion 
of the reception of General Lafayette in Concord, June 22, 
1825. His father was chairman of the committee of arrange- 



5 

merits, and entertained the distinguished general as his 
guest during his stay in town. The selected militia of the 
State on that day were commanded by General Benjamin 
Bradley Bartlett, of Nottingham. Colonel Kent commanded 
the right wing, comprising the Eleventh Regiment, and Gen- 
eral Parna Towle, of Epping, the left wing. It was a mem- 
orable gathering of the State militia, and called together 
more soldiers of the Revolutionary War than had ever as- 
sembled in this State at one time after the close of the 
war, two hundred and ten of them being introduced to Gen- 
eral Lafayette in the State House. Colonel Kent used to 
relate many incidents of that day of an exceedingly interest- 
ing character, and he ever justly regarded the occasion as 
a red-letter day of his life. 

In politics, he was a Whig, while that party had a na- 
tional existence, and a Republican from the organization of 
that party to his death. He represented Concord in the 
Legislature of 1832 and 1839 ; and he served as one of the 
early trustees of the State Reform School, now the State 
Industrial School, at Manchester. Soon after Amos Tuck 
was appointed naval officer at Boston in 1861, he appointed 
Colonel Kent to a clerkship in the naval office in the cus- 
tom-house, which position he held until his resignation of 
it Sept. I, 1873, when he was succeeded by his youngest son, 
Frederick A. Kent. At this time, he was a little past eighty 
years of age, but none of his interest in public affairs had 
abated. The next year after his resignation of the office, 
he returned to this city to reside, and made his home at the 
Phenix Hotel until his journey to his daughter was made 
last March. 

Colonel Kent was one of the original members of the 
Unitarian church and society in Concord, and took great in- 
terest in his denomination, having been a subscriber to the 
Christian Register, in Boston, from the date of its starting, 
more than a half-century ago. He was a constant attendant 
upon religious services until his hearing became so impaired 
that he could not hear the services connectedly, which was 



only in the last few years of his life. Among his special 
ministerial friends for more than forty years was Rev. Will- 
iam P. Tilden, formerly of this city, and now of Milton, 
Mass., who will officiate on Sunday at the funeral services. 
He spoke frequently at Unitarian gatherings ; and one of his 
latest efforts in this line was at the dedication of the Unita- 
rian chapel, when Ralph Waldo Emerson, among other out- 
of-town people, was present. 

Colonel Kent was a ready speaker, an excellent conver- 
sationalist, and affable and courteous in manner. He en- 
joyed the years he spent in Concord after leaving the 
custom-house, notwithstanding death had sadly thinned the 
ranks of his former friends. His love of his native heath 
was strong; and he was ever ready to make friends of an- 
other generation who loved the town of his boyhood and 
manhood, and took an interest in its welfare. He took 
great interest in passing events up to within a few months of 
his death, and was a constant reader of daily newspapers, 
which he perused without the aid of glasses up to almost 
the last of his reading, within a year. His chirography was 
remarkably good ; and, at his last birthday, he gratified 
some of his friends by writing his autograph. The last 
time he wrote his name in Concord was to sign a petition 
for the widening of the extension of Pleasant Street, just 
before leaving town on the forenoon of March 24. 

He was twice married : first, to Catherine Hutchins, of 
Concord, Nov. 27, 1817, who died March 12, 1839 ; and, 
second, to Letitia C. Stinson, of Dunbarton, who died Oct. 
19, 1883. 

By his first marriage, he had nine children, eight of whom 
are now living ; namely, Mrs. Lucy Jane Wellington, Kan- 
sas ; Henry Mellen, Buffalo, N.Y. ; Mrs. Mary Kirkwood 
Hallock, Cromwell, Conn. ; John, Boston ; Mrs. Ellen Em- 
erson Muzzey, Cambridge, Mass. ; Charles Edward, Minne- 
apolis, Minn. ; and Prentiss Mellen, Boston. By his sec- 
ond marriage, he had one son, who survives him, Frederick 
Augustus, Boston. Three sisters also survive him ; namely, 



Mrs. Caroline Newman, of Brunswick, Me. ; Mrs. Mary 
Jane Thomas, of Newton, Mass. ; and Mrs. Rebecca Pren- 
tiss Packard, of Brunswick, Me. 

The first death in his family of children was his eldest 
son, William Austin Kent, who died at New Orleans, May 
5, 1873, at the age of fifty-three years ; and the second was 
his eldest daughter, Mrs. Charlotte Augusta Wellington, 
in 1884. 

The death of Colonel William Kent removes the last rep- 
resentative, in this city, of a family which for nearly a 
century was identified with Concord and its interests to an 
unusual degree. Colonel William A. Kent, who came to 
Concord from Charlestown, Mass., and located here in 1789, 
was one of the foremost men of the town until his death, in 
April, 1840. He was an energetic and public-spirited man, 
and filled many positions of honor and trust, serving in the 
House of Representatives and Senate for several years. 
His home was noted for refined and generous hospitality. 

Of his sons, Edward, who graduated at Harvard College 
in 1821, was appointed Chief Justice of the Court of Sessions 
for Penobscot County, Me., in 1826 ; elected Governor of 
Maine in 1838-40 ; commissioner to represent the State in 
the negotiation of the Ashburton Treaty, at Washington, in 
1842 ; Minister Plenipotentiary to Brazil in 1849, remaining 
there four years ; and Judge of the Supreme Court. George 
Kent graduated from Dartmouth College in 1814; read law 
and commenced practice in 1841 ; cashier of Concord bank 
from 182 1 to 1840; editor of the New Ha7npshire Statesmafi 
afid Concord Register for several years ; clerk in the Boston 
custom-house ; consul at Valencia, Spain ; clerk in one of 
the departments at Washington, from early in Lincoln's 
administration to some three years ago. 

Of the daughters, Caroline married Prof. Samuel P- 
Newman, of Bowdoin College; Mary Jane married Rev. 
Moses G. Thomas, the first Unitarian clergyman in Con- 
cord ; and Rebecca Prentiss married Rev. Charles Packard, 
also a professor at Bowdoin College ; Charlotte Mellen 



8 

married Hon. James H. Bingham, of Alstead, this State, 
who was a classmate and room-mate, while in college, of 
Daniel Webster, and who maintained an intimacy with the 
latter through life. She died some ten years ago, in Cleve- 
land, Ohio. All in all, it was one of the most notable of 
Concord families. 



ADDRESS AT THE FUNERAL. 

BY W. P. TILDEN. 



" Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and 

HONOR the face OF THE OLD MAN." 

Honor him in life, honor him when called to the higher 
life. The Hebrews held old age in profound reverence. It 
was regarded as a token of divine favor. " He shall come 
to his grave in full age, like as a shock of corn is gathered 
in his season." It was held worthy of all honor. " A hoary 
head is a crown, — a crown of glory if it be found in the way 
of righteousness." Filial reverence for it was linked with 
the promise of it. " Honor thy father and thy mother, that 
thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God 
giveth thee." 

Well may we honor old age, we have so little of it to 
honor. Few old people die. Children fall like spring blos- 
soms. Young men and maidens pass away like the morning 
cloud and early dew. Manhood and womanhood are called 
in the midst of life, in the maturity of their strength ; but, 
of the very old, few are left to die, — few, certainly, who have 
attained to the years of our honored friend. We almost 
hold our breath when we think how long " his days " have 
been "in the land" God gave him for his inheritance, — how 
far back he dates in our national history. He was born 
when the Republic he loved so well, dating from its constitu- 
tion, was only six years old. He came into the world the 
same year that Washington entered on his second term as 



President. When Jefferson — who was born on the same 
day of the month, just fifty years before— came into the 
presidential chair, William was a lad of eight years. When 
the War of 1812, which now seems so long ago, broke out, 
he was a young man of nineteen. He must have cast his 
first presidential vote for James Monroe, as he came to his 
majority three years before. 

On that Fourth of July made memorable by the death of 
two ex-Presidents, Adams and Jefferson, — an event that 
seems so long ago to the school children of to-day, — he was 
almost in middle life, over thirty. When the War of the 
Rebellion broke out,— of which all still in their minority know 
nothing, save from books and tradition, — he was an old man, 
about seventy. And still he lived on and on and on, to enter 
on his ninety-fourth year, spanning with his " length of days 
in the land " almost the entire life of the Republic. There 
were only fifteen States when he was born, Vermont having 
joined a year, and Kentucky two years, before. Not a steam- 
boat on river or lake or ocean. Not a railroad in all the 
land till he was in middle life. Think of the map of our 
country then and now ; of its population then and now ; of 
the vast wildernesses that have been made to blossom as the 
rose; of the growth and extent of our commerce by land 
and sea ; of the progress in inventions, science, art, philan- 
thropy, religion ; wiping the stain of slavery from our national 
flag, and " proclaiming liberty throughout all the land to all 
the inhabitants thereof," — think of all this, and then of one 
life spanning it all, and participating in it all, and we get 
some idea of the long and eventful experience through which 
our honored friend has passed. 

An intelligent old man, nearly as old as our friend, once 
said to me, "When I cast my thoughts back to my childhood, 
not regarding that which has intervened, it seems but as 
yesterday ; but when I go back to that childhood, and follow 
on and up, step by step, through all the long years and 
varied experiences of my life, it seems as if I had lived for- 
ever." So it must have seemed sometimes to our departed 



lO 

brother, especially as the dear old friends of his boyhood, 
and even his ripe manhood, grew less and less, until, at last, 
none were left with whom he could hold real communion of 
the olden times. 

But he has at last gone to find again those he so painfully 
missed here ; and we have met, not to weep, but to rejoice 
in the immortal hope he cherished so fondly, and to rejoice 
also that his long life has left so many memories that we 
may recall to-day with pleasure and gratitude. 

My acquaintance with Deacon Kent began in the sum- 
mer of 1844, forty-two years ago. I had come to Concord 
to supply the Unitarian pulpit for a single Sunday ; and, as 
Brother Thomas had just left, the people wished me to re- 
main as their pastor. None urged this more warmly than 
Deacon Kent, then an active and influential member of the 
church, as he had been from its beginning. He came to 
Norton, where I was then settled, and with persuasive elo- 
quence urged me to come, expatiating on the attractiveness 
of the place, the rapid growth of the city, the healthiness of 
the climate, the balmy and healing air from the pine plains 
across the river. I yielded, and came, though I remember of 
thinking, if the parish here had many such eloquent talkers 
among them, I was poorly adapted to become their minister. 
Here began a friendship which has never ceased ; for, 
though I remained here but a few years, I formed friend- 
ships which long absence has neither broken nor marred. 

When Deacon Kent came to Boston in 1861, he and his 
wife came to the Free Church of which I was pastor ; and so 
not only the old friendship was renewed, but the old sweet 
pastoral relationship. While with us in Boston, he won the 
hearts of our people by his sweet, genial spirit, his religious 
interest, and his reverent Christian bearing. All who be- 
came acquainted v/ith him honored and loved him, and the 
day he and his good wife were obliged to leave us was a day 
of sorrow. Their occasional visits, afterward, were occa- 
sions of joy. He was a genial man. He loved companion- 
ship. He was full of wit and humor. His conversational 



II 

power was remarkable. He loved a good story, and could 
tell it admirably. But his wit, if sharp, was always kind, and 
his humor, if jubilant, was unstained and pure ; for, under 
all this exuberance of spirits, he had a religious nature, kept 
alive and active by an interest in the worship and work of 
that branch of the Church to which he belonged, — an inter- 
est which never failed until the infirmities of years rendered 
him too feeble to go up to the house of prayer and praise, 
to keep holy time with those he loved. 

Yes, Deacon Kent loved his Church. It was during the 
great Unitarian controversy of fifty years ago, and more, 
that he became interested in liberal views of religion. He 
was among the first to obtain liberal preaching for Concord, 
before any society was formed, and still among the first to 
organize a church and build a place of worship. He was 
its first deacon, when the office meant more than it does 
now, and its constant friend and supporter. He was an old- 
school Unitarian, as he was an old-school gentleman, "^r 
Chamwig Unitarian!'^ — a phrase as difficult to define as 
" liberal Christianity." But it was a phrase our friend loved 
and honored. To him, it defined itself. 

With no bigotry and no intolerance for what are called 
advance views, he yet clung to that early phase of liberal 
thought which first won his love. He was very fond of our 
Unitarian literature. He was not only a subscriber to the 
Christian Register from the beginning, but a constant reader 
of it to the last, desiring each new issue should be read to 
him when his own eyesight failed. 

But, while he loved very deeply his own faith, he was little 
of a sectarian. He loved all Christians. He took great 
pleasure in attending the conference meetings of other de- 
nominations, — Methodist, Baptist, Orthodox, whatever the 
name, — to join in their songs and prayers and interchange 
of Christian thought, and to bear his testimony to the great 
truths all hold in common. And he never failed of a wel- 
come in these meetings. There was something so venerable 
in his appearance, so sweet in his spirit, so tender and sym- 
pathetic in his voice, that it was sure to find a response. 



12 

The esteem in which he was held as a citizen is shown in 
a beautiful tribute to his memory in the Concord Monitor, 
which I read with pleasure last evening, — a tribute which 
will be greatly and gratefully prized by his children and 
friends. 

What he was to his large family of sons and daughters 
they knew better than I or any one outside can tell. But 
we outsiders can judge of what he was to them all, not 
only by the general worth of his character, but by their gen- 
erous provision for his wants in his old age, and their tender 
solicitude to do everything possible to make his declining 
years happy as well as tranquil. 

I counted it a rich privilege to be present, as an invited 
guest, at that " ninetieth birth anniversary " of our friend, 
celebrated by his children. It was a charming occasion, as 
beautiful and impressive as it was rare. Here was the re- 
vered and honored father, still bright, with eye scarcely 
dimmed, though with natural force abated, yet with steady 
step ; his beloved wife beside him, who, though failing in 
mind, seemed preternaturally quickened for the enjoyment 
of the occasion ; surrounded by their children, full of filial 
love and devotion.; with letters and bouquets from absent 
friends, sent from far and near with congratulations and 
happy wishes; with rich gifts from precious children, the 
richest of all being their tender, reverent love. Oh, it was 
indeed an occasion never to be forgotten ; an occasion hon- 
orable alike to parents and children ; an occasion the mem- 
ory of which must have given great comfort to our friend, as 
the shadow still lengthened and the sunset hour drew nigh ! 
And, still, filial love watched over him with provident care, 
and a dear sister's bright mind, patient hand, and loving 
heart ministered to his gradually declining strength. But 
the decline was very gradual. Even after his ninety-third 
birthday, he signed his name to a petition for some city im- 
provement with the same firm, graceful hand peculiar to him 
through life ; and, of all the names appended to the paper, 
his was pronounced the finest specimen of penmanship. 



13 

At last, when the public house, where he had enjoyed so 
many years, seemed no longer a fit place for one so feeble, 
he was taken to the home of an own daughter, in another 
State, where he was tenderly cared for till the " silver cord 
was loosed, and the golden bowl broken," and the immortal 
spirit set free. He had longed to go for many months. He 
felt that his work was done, that more were waiting for him 
there than would miss him here. He who had kept him in 
life would keep him still in death, and lead him through 
the valley, lighted by his love, to the golden shore. 

Not knowing that his eyesight was failing, he spoke to 
those about him of the mistiness of the atmosphere, and 
wondered at it. So gently the dear God drew the veil as 
the hour of rest came on, as gently as a mother sings the 
eyelids of her babe together, while resting in her arms. 
His last act was to cross his hands upon his breast. And 
so he lay all night, breathing as gently as an infant, till the 
immortal day broke. 

The mist has cleared now, the vision is restored, the risen 
life begun. Who will venture to weep ? Not sorrow, but 
sacred joy befits such a rising. 

" We will be glad that he hath lived thus long, 
And glad that he hath gone to his reward, 
Nor deem that kindly nature did him wrong 
Gently to disengage the vital cord ; 
For, when his step grew feeble and his eye 
Dim with the mist of age, it was his time to die." 






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