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Full text of "In memoriam : James Constantine Pilling, 1846-1895"

LIBRARY 

OF THE 

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA. 




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5ames Constantine 

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JAMES CONSTANTINE PILLING. 

1846--1895. 



MR. JAMES CONSTANTINE PILLING, whose death 
occurred on July 26, 1895, was born in Washington, 
D. C., November 16, 1846. He was educated in the 
public schools and at Gonzaga College, and displayed 
in early boyhood that power of concentration and 
precision of intellectual effort which in later years 
distinguished his scientific work. He was employed, 
after his graduation, in Morrison's book store, and at 
the same time perfected himself in the then novel art 
of stenography. His ability in this direction soon 
became marked, and he quickly came to be regarded 
as one of the most expert shorthand writers in the 
country. 

At the age of twenty he was employed as stenog- 
rapher in court work, in committee work in Congress, 
and in various commissions established by Congress 
for the settlement of claims resulting from the civil 
war. In 1875 he joined the survey of the Rocky 
Mountain region, under Major J. W. Powell, which 



organization gave a large share of attention to 
the Indian tribes, and from that time until 1880 he 
was almost continuously in the West among the native 
tribes, engaged in tabulating vocabularies of their 
languages and collecting tales of their weird myth- 
ology. The successful investigator in this line must 
spend many sleepless and weary nights, often go 
hungry and wet, and experience hardships in which 
only the enthusiasm born of a genuine love of science 
can sustain him, and during these years Mr. Pilling 
overtaxed his strength. 

When, in 1881, Major Powell succeeded Mr. Clarence 
King in the directorship of the present United States 
Geological Survey, Mr. Pilling was made chief clerk 
of that bureau. He did not, however, abandon his 
ethnologic researches, but, as a member of the Bureau 
of Ethnology, also, he continued until his death to 
give to ethnologic and linguistic work all the time 
and strength he could command, and this sufficed 
to enable him to catalogue and index the literature 
relating to the languages of nearly all the Indian 
tribes of North America. 

In 1885 there was issued by the Bureau of Eth- 
nology a small edition of a volume of nearly 1,200 
pages entitled " Proof-sheets of a Bibliography of the 
Languages of the North American Indians, by James 
Constantine Pilling." The compilation of this material 
had been begun some years previous as a card-cata- 



logue for the use of members of the Bureau of 
Ethnology, and as a basis for a projected work by 
the Director, Major J. W. Powell, on the classification 
of the North American tribes by language. From 
year to year the work grew, and as material accumu- 
lated on his hands Mr. Pilling was encouraged to 
believe that a monograph of the subject might be 
compiled ; the " Proof-sheets " was the result. This 
was considered by Mr. Pilling a preliminary, tenta- 
tive, and incomplete catalogue, embodying information 
which he had gathered from printed and manuscript 
authorities, by personal visits to public and private 
libraries throughout the United States and Canada, 
and by an extensive correspondence. To this task 
Mr. Pilling had given the patient labor of years, and 
developed a genius for the work which later placed 
him in the foremost rank of bibliographers. His 
system of card-cataloguing and cross-referencing is a 
model for all workers in the same field. 

After the issuance of the " Proof-sheets " Mr. Pilling 
had an opportunity to visit many of the national 
and private libraries of Europe, and in view of the 
large amount of new material thus collected, he was 
led to believe that a separate catalogue of the works 
relating to each of the more important linguistic 
stocks of North America might be prepared. In 1887 
he began such a series of bibliographies, which occu- 
pied his attention to the time of his death. The 



Eskimo was the initial volume ; then followed, in 
order, the Siouaii, Iroquoian, Muskhogean, Algonquian, 
Athapascan, Chinookan, Salishan, and Wakashan. Mr. 
Filling's last energies were devoted to the preparation 
of a bibliography of the ancient Mexican languages ; 
this he succeeded in practically completing, and it will 
be published as soon as indexed. Probably the most 
noted of these books is the Algonquian, which is 
regarded as one of the most important ethnological 
works in existence, and the portion of it published 
separately and devoted to Eliot's Indian Bible has 
attracted more attention than any other publication 
of the Bureau of Ethnology. 

It is impossible to contemplate these great results 
of painstaking and technical effort results not only 
of philologic and ethnologic, but of sociologic and 
literary interest without admiration for the man 
who, in addition to exacting clerical labor, and in 
the face of hopeless and progressive disease, still 
struggled bravely on, building a monument to his 
name which shall endure so long as kindred minds 
shall seek for truth and the human heart bow before 
an honest life usefully spent. 

The funeral services were held at 1343 Fifteenth 
Street, N. W., the late residence of Mr. Pilling, at 
eleven o'clock on the morning of Monday, July 29, 
1895, Rev. Howard Wilbur Ennis officiating. At the 
conclusion of the services, which were in accordance 



with the usual form employed by the Presbyterian 
Church, Mr. Marcus Baker, for twenty years a close 
friend of the deceased, made the following remarks: 



" It is fitting that the kindly sentiments we all 
share towards him whose face now turns from us and 
whose voice is still, should be spoken at this time, 
when we are met to take final leave of our comrade, 
associate, and friend ; but it is with misgiving that I 
have yielded to a request to be the speaker. If 
friendship for him or admiration of his nobility of 
character were the only requisites for the well doing 
of this labor of love, then indeed would it be well 
done. But such is not the case. May I not, then, 
have your sympathetic indulgence for a few moments 
while, as best I may, I attempt to voice our feelings 
as we gather around our friend, whose sufferings we 
rejoice to know are ended at last. 

" Many and varied are the emotions of those 
assembled to pay the last tender tribute of respect to a 
departed friend. Around the bier gather the play- 
mates of childhood, the companions of youth, the 
associates of mature years, and with them come those 
nearer by ties of blood, each stirred by his own 
peculiar emotions: the aged father, grief-stricken at 
the untimely cutting off of a favorite son ; the fond 
brother and sister, proud of the achievements of a 
noble brother ; and the devoted wife, who, after years 
of patient watching and care, bears her grief alone, 
for who shall share her grief who for years has 
seen the dearest of all on earth to her under sentence 



e 

of death, walking steadily down, down into the valley 
of the shadow, where she must say good-bye and re- 
turn alone. To her flows out the full measure of 
sympathy from us all, and yet how slight it all must 
needs be in contrast with her lonely sorrow. 

" To few of us is it given to know intimately the 
whole life of any of our fellows. Some of us see its 
morning, some its evening some more and some less 
and our feelings are a reflection, as it were, of that 
which we have seen ; hence the difficulty in forming 
a just estimate of the whole life of any comrade. My 
acquaintanceship with and affection for our friend be- 
gan together some twenty years ago, and thus I knew 
the late middle and afternoon of his shortened life. 
Few of all my friendships have been more pleasant 
or more useful. To know him was to love him, and 
companionship with him was an inspiration. His 
ideals were lofty and ennobling. Meanness and petti- 
ness he hated with a consuming hatred. Coarseness 
was intolerable to him. ' The ladies are always pre- 
sent ' was a maxim and rule of his life and conversa- 
tion. His affections were strong and his hatreds 
strong, but he hated only the hateful. Placed 
for years in positions of trust and responsibility, 
he had to do with many men. His sense of justice 
kept him ever watchful over the interests of the lowly 
faithful one, but the sluggard or the petty deceiver he 
despised with an indescribable intensity. His char- 
acter was intense ; there was nothing lukewarm or 
half-way about it ; it was positive. His training as 
an executive led him to prompt conclusions, and his 
keen sense of justice led him, as by intuition, to decide 



justly. To foreknow his decision on any question it 
was only needful to know the justice of the case. 

" Thoroughness was a strong trait in his character. 
Whatever he did, he did with all his might. When 
as a boy he began the study of stenography, he 
promptly mastered the art and became prominent 
among the foremost experts ; and when, later, he be- 
gan the preparation of a catalogue of the literature 
relating to the languages of the North American 
Indians, under his enthusiastic zeal this work grew 
rapidly from a catalogue to a bibliography, and 
among bibliographies it promptly rose to foremost 
rank, where it now stands without a rival. Through 
this great work will the name of James Constantine 
Pilling be perpetuated and held in grateful remem- 
brance by many who know not the author but only 
his name and work a work constituting a monument 
more enduring than granite. To these this bibliog- 
raphy must seem nay, it does seem to be the 
sole work of a long and laborious life. And yet it is 
not so. It is less than twenty years since he entered 
upon its preparation, which was taken up in addition 
to his exacting duties as chief clerk of the Powell 
Survey. So skilled was he in the art of utilizing 
scraps of time that it was begun and carried on for 
about fifteen years as an addition to those duties 
which ordinarily consume one's whole time and energy. 
During the latter part of this period he was in im- 
paired health also, fighting an unknown disease. 
When some five years ago the real nature of his 
dread malady was discovered and its progress com- 
pelled the relinquishment of his executive duties, with 



8 

characteristic resolution and courage he with one hand 
fought off the arch enemy and with the other pushed 
on with his work. But the fight was a hopeless one, 
and he knew it. Great, therefore, is our admiration 
of the courage which he could command and the 
results he could achieve when so disabled. Thus, in 
mid-life, broken in health but unbroken in courage, 
his great work has ended. Our admiration for his 
achievement is increased by considering the circum- 
stances under which it was accomplished. 

" And now, from the house of mourning let us re- 
turn to our vocations, carrying fresh inspiration for 
our work inspiration gathered from the contempla- 
tion of a noble and well-spent life ; with grief at our 
loss, but with joy that our friend is free from pain at 
last, and with heartfelt sympathy for the bereaved 
ones. Their grief will finally pass away, but their 
pleasure in the contemplation of so noble a life will 
grow with the passing years." 



Prompted by these remarks, Mr. Ennis spoke as 
follows : 

" To have known the friend who has gone from 
us was not my privilege, and I use the word in its 
fullness, but I count it an honor to place the period 
mark to the sentence his life has spoken. 

" When we look about us and mark the life mem- 
ories that are most revered and treasured, they are 
not of those who, having fought honorably and bravely, 
have returned from the battlefield, perhaps but rem- 



nants of their former selves. Not even such worthy 
heroes receive the richest wreath of laurel. It is the 
name of the man who was granted the boon of laying 
his life, not falteringly, but freely, a sacrifice upon the 
altar of duty which the recording Angel of Fame 
writes high above his fellows in fadeless characters of 
matchless glory. And the hardest contested battle- 
fields are riot marked by shock of armor, in the 
presence and with the encouragement of hosts, when 
chivalry and sentiment and fervor lend their succor- 
ing strengths ; but when the warrior stands alone, 
fighting forces unseen, and accordingly vastly more 
subtle than armed men, denied alike the eclat of 
numbers and the enthusiasm of battle, fearful of be- 
trayal by the weakening of his natural and best ally, 
the human body, buoyed up but by a consciousness 
of duty performed it is then we behold the hero. 

" The true badge of a manly man is his energetic 
desire to labor as best he has faculty and opportunity, 
seeking honestly to add to the general good of his 
kind and never questioning whose shall be the gain. 
Only such as he deserve place in the society and es- 
teem of his fellows. 

" If, as I believe, the good Creator was wise enough 
to set, and to hold in their respective orbits, the 
great hurtling spheres of the marvelous systems of the 
universe, surely when He fashioned the epitome of 
creation in the creature we call man, He was wise 
enough to appoint unto the veriest of humans a spe- 
cific place and work in His surpassing plan. This 
special work for the performance of which he has been 
called into being is the profession aye, better, the 



10 

vocation of each of us; having found which, we may 
prove the temper of our manhood. 

"The life that has just gone out I helieve to have 
been such as I have described. Quick to discern his 
natural bent, he was no less ready to follow in that 
chosen path as rapidly and as long as life permitted. 
Delving deep in the mines of natural wisdom, he was 
tireless in effort to unearth treasures of truth. Dangers 
that would have halted brave men, he would not 
recognize. Bodily suffering that would fairly have 
incapacitated strong men, to him served but as warn- 
ing that he must hasten in his life work ; he needed 
no stronger incentive 'to do and die.' Utterly un- 
selfish, he found his greatest joy in doing for others. 
He had sunk his own identity in an overpowering 
zeal to be of service to the race. Science has indeed 
lost a faithful, fearless, and tireless servant. 

" I am conscious that many of my hearers would 
disagree in part, perhaps in toto, with me in my 
beliefs. At this moment I am reminded of a beauti- 
ful mural painting I saw sometime since in a northern 
city. It was an allegory of wondrous depth of 
meaning, where each stroke of the artist's brush had 
been, as it were,- the moving of the pen of mystery, 
writing a message to men in characters of parable. 
In the center of the picture stood an angel of surpassing 
beauty and loftiness of expression, holding an open 
book, while the eyes were lifted above, as if seeking 
from the Source of all wisdom a key to the under- 
standing of some unillumined passage. The face, 
though, was lit up with a look of faith, a look 'made 
all of sweet accord/ fully confident of receiving an 



11 



answer to the prayer rising from the expectant eyes. 
This was the Angel of Light, Love, and Life; to and 
around whom in loving submission knelt figures, 
symbolic of lofty thought and aspiration, waiting for 
her as oracle to reveal the deep truths as yet thick 
veiled. At her feet grew the chaste lilies of the 
Resurrection. On either side stood two figures, those 
of an old and a young man. The twain on the one 
side the aged, patient patriarch, Research, and the 
quick, strong youth, Intuition stood for Science. 
The two on the other side the hoary-headed saint, 
Reverence, and the sturdy, cheerful young man, 
Inspiration represented Religion. Hovering near 
Science were the spirits of Devotion, of Labor, and of 
Truth ; while the guardian angels of Religion were 
Purity, Faith, and Hope. The artist had caught and 
portrayed God's plan for the growth and development 
of His children, along lines, mental and moral. Religion 
and Science, aided by the highest faculties of honest 
research, should work patiently together to discover 
the combination ' sesame ' that shall throw open the 
portals of the Temple of Knowledge, high, noble, 
and pure. 

"Science and Religion have too long gone divorced. 
God meant it not so. May we in the eventide of 
the nineteenth century behold them each under- 
standing the other better than in the past, recog- 
nizing that they should be as a complement one to 
the other, closely wedded and interdependent; Science, 
the guide of the twentieth century, leading men to 
the threshold of Bethlehem's inn ; and in return, 
Religion with all confidence relying upon and glory- 



12 

ing in the achievements of the scientific world ; and 
they together joining in the doxology of the ages. 

" May we who stand in the solemnity of this hour 
go again to our tasks conscious that because of the 
faithful example of the friend taken from us we will 
strive to be better men, better women, finding our 
chiefest joy in the welfare of our fellows, having 
learned what the poetess meant when she sang : 

" ' The man most man, with tenderest human hands, 
Works best for men, as God in Nazareth.'" 



After the public announcement of the death a 
number of letters were received from sympathizing 
friends. Among them was one from his life-long 
associate, Major J. W. Powell. Because of this rela- 
tionship and the sentiments expressed in the letter, 
it has been selected for reproduction here as a 
part of this Memorial. 

"GLOUCESTER, MASS., August 12, 1895. 
" MY DEAR MRS. PILLING : 

"The death of your husband and my life-long friend was not 
unexpected, and it came as a relief from pain that had for years made 
life a burden. How great this burden of pain was is known only 
to yourself, and perhaps to myself; to all others I believe it was 
concealed by such a manifestation of courage and good-will as I 
have never witnessed in any other person. 

"Through many of the years of active life James and I were 
associated, in the office and in the field. Field work led us into 
the wilderness of mountain and canyon, of forest and desert, away 
from the comforts and conveniences of civilization, where life itself 
was preserved by a constant struggle. In all this experience my 
boon companion never failed nor faltered, always doing more than 



13 



his share in the struggle for existence and in the effort necessary 
to fill life with joy. He never rested from his labor when labor 
could be of avail ; he never lost courage, and courage was always 
in demand. He never forgot the sweet amenities of life, not even 
when labor and danger would seem to call for all his attention and 
all his energies. 

" In all my life I have never known a man more steadfast to 
his moral and intellectual convictions, which were held with that 
charity for others which is possible only to those who have strong 
and well-founded convictions of their own. The field of research 
in which he was engaged was in part common ground with my 
own, and we were thus brought close together ; and he shared with 
me responsibilities in financial affairs and in business operations. I 
thus knew him well, and I know that in everything he played a 
most honorable and efficient part. 

"His contributions to bibliography constitute a monument to 
wisely directed labor, and, by reason of his great scholarship, will 
remain a guide to men of learning. 

"Please accept this tribute from me to the great-souled man 
who has left us and whose loss is your loss more than that of any 
other person. I know well the extent of his dependence upon 
yourself, and of the wise care you gave to his declining years of 
pain and anguish. It would perhaps be presumption on my part 
to express my gratitude to you for the care and loving regard which 
you have extended to my friend, but be assured, my dear Mrs. 
Pilling, that it is profoundly appreciated. 

"I am, yours cordially, 





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