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Full text of "Memorial of Onslow Stearns, Concord, N. H"

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MAY 2 4 1916 


Onslow Stearns was born in Billerica, in Middlesex 
county, Massachusetts, on the thirtieth day of August, 
eighteen hundred and ten. His father, John Stearns, and 
his grandfather, Isaac Stearns, were prosperous farmers, 
and the farm which they owned and cultivated in Billerica 
is now owned and occupied by Franklin Stearns, an older 
brother of Onslow. 

Isaac Stearns was a well known and influential citizen of 
Middlesex county, and held various local and state offices, 
being for some years a member of the executive council. 
Onslow Stearns remained at home, working on the farm, 
and receiving the usual education of a district school and 
country academy till he was seventeen years old, when, in 
1827, he went to Boston, and became* ^^ei'k' in the house 
of Howe & Holbrook, afterwards J. C. Howe & Co. Here 
he remained for about three years, when he joined his elder 
brother, John O. Stearns, in Virginia, and was employed in 
the engineering department of the construction of the Ches- 
apeake & Ohio Canal till 1833, when he became interested 
with his brother John in contracts for the construction of 
various railroads, including, among others, the Philadelphia 
& Columbia (now part of the Pennsylvania Railroad), the 
Germantown, the Philadelphia & Trenton, the Philadelphia 
& Norristown, the Delaware & Atlantic, the Camden & Am- 
boy, the Brooklyn & Jamaica, the Philadelphia, Wilmington 
& Baltimore, the Elizabethtown & Somerville, and the Bal- 
timore & Ohio railroads. 

He was engaged in these enterprises till the summer of 
i837> when he returned to New England, and became con- 
tractor in the construction of the Charlestown Branch Rail- 
road, which afterwards became a portion of the Fitchburg 
Railroad, and of the Wilmington & Haverhill Railroad, which 
is now a portion of the Boston & Maine Railroad. Later in 
the same year he undertook the completion of the Nashua 
& Lowell Railroad, then in process of construction from 
Lowell, Mass., to Nashua, N. H. He was engaged in this 
work till its completion in the fall of 1838, when he was 
chosen superintendent of the road, which position he held 
till July, 1845, when he resigned, and was appointed agent 
of the Northern Railroad Company of New Hampshire, for 
the purpose of building its road from Concord to West 
Lebanon, N. H. 

Mr. Stearns was instrumental in obtaining the legislation 
in New Hampshire, in 1844, under which the Northern 
Railroad Company, and other railroad corporations which 
were unable to purchase the land for their roads, were 
enabled to secure a right of way, by means of a taking of 
land for that purpose by the state, payment of damages 
therefor from the state treasury, and a lease of the right of 
way thus taken by the state to the railroad corporations, 
they paying therefor the amount of damages previously 
T^' by .the state. This course was rendered necessary by 
iC repeal in 1840 of the act giving railroad corporations 
the power to take land for railroad purposes. The North- 
ern Railroad, together with the branch from Franklin to 
Bristol, was located and constructed entirely under the per- 
sonal supervision of Mr. Stearns, and upon its completion 
he was continued as its manager till May, 1852, when he 
was chosen president of the company, which position he 
held till his death, a period of twenty-seven years. He was 
also general superintendent of the Vermont Central Rail- 
road, from January, 1852, for a period of about three years, 
during a portion of which time he was also a director in the 


Ogdensburgh Railroad, and from 1857 to 1875 he was a 
director of tlie Nashua & Lowell Railroad Corporation. 

While president of the Northern Railroad Company, 
Mr. Stearns was also president of the Sullivan, the Con- 
toocook Valley, and the Concord & Claremont railroad 
companies, which were connected in interest with the 
Northern Railroad, and under his direction the Concord 
& Claremont Railroad was extended from Bradford to 
Claremont, being completed in 1872. The success of Mr. 
Stearns in the management of these various railroad enter- 
prises caused his services to be sought by those interested 
in other railroads, and he was frequently solicited to take 
charge of railroad interests in Massachusetts and other 
states. These offers he uniformly declined, till July, 1866, 
when he was induced to take the presidency of the Old 
Colony & Newport Railway Company, in Massachusetts, 
which position he held till November, 1877, when he re- 
signed on account of failing health. During this time the 
Old Colony & Newport Railway Company and the Cape 
Cod Railroad Company were consolidated under the name 
of the Old Colony Railroad Company, and the South Shore 
and Duxbury & Cohasset railroads, with others, were added 
to it. The Old Colony Steamboat Company was also 
formed, and purchased the boats of the Narragansett Steam- 
ship Company, thus forming, with the Old Colony Railrq^^d, 
the present Fall River Line between Boston and New Yot, 
In 1874, Mr. Stearns was elected president of the Concord 
Railroad, which, with its branches, forms the centre of the 
railway system of New Hampshire ; and he continued to 
manage the affairs of this corporation till his death. 

The eleven years during which Mr. Stearns was president 
of the Old Colony Railroad were years of the most intense 
and constant labor on his part. For two years of the time 
he was governor of New Hampshire. He was president of 
the Northern Railroad and the other roads connected with 
it during all that time, and for three years he was also 

president of the Concord Railroad and of the Old Colony 
Steamboat Company, besides being a director and interest- 
ed in the management of various other corporations. Mr. 
Stearns gave an active, personal supervision to all the cor- 
porate interests under his charge, embracing not only their 
general relations with other corporations and interests, but 
extending to the most minute details of their management. 
He was never idle. No man was ever more painstaking 
and faithful in the discharge of his duties. His papers and 
figures were carried with him, and studied as he journeyed 
between his home in Concord and the railroad ofifices in 
Boston ; and when in Boston his labors almost always ex- 
tended far into the hours of night. He lived in labor, and 
thought no plan complete till, by execution, it had passed 
beyond his power to labor upon it. His knowledge of the 
practical management of railroads was complete and per- 
fect to the smallest details; and this, together with his un- 
wearied industry, sound business judgment and foresight, 
and his knowledge and control of men, contributed to a suc- 
cess such as few railroad managers have attained. At his 
death he was the oldest railroad president in continuous 
service in New England, having been president of the 
Northern Railroad for twenty-seven years. 

From early life Mr. Stearns took a lively interest in pub- 
lic affairs. In his political views he was a Whig, and took 
an active part in the presidential campaign which resulted 
in the election of Gen. Harrison in 1840. Later, he became 
a member of the Republican party, and in 1862 he was chos- 
en a member of the New Hampshire state senate, where he 
served on the committees on railroads, elections, and mili- 
tary affairs. In 1863 he was reelected, and was chosen pres- 
ident of the senate. As a legislator, Mr. Stearns was dis- 
tinguished for the same qualities which made him successful 
in business. He was sparing in speech, industrious in duty, 
sound in judgment, practical in his views, and had great in- 
fluence in the deliberations of the senate. In 1864 he was 

a delegate-at-large from New Hampshire to the Republican 
National Convention at Baltimore, and was one of the vice- 
presidents of that body. On the 7th of January, 1869, Mr. 
Stearns was nominated as the Republican candidate for gov- 
ernor of New Hampshire. The nominating convention was 
a very full one, nearly every town and ward in the state be- 
ing represented by the entire delegation to which it was en- 
titled, and the nomination was unanimously made by accla- 
mation. He was inaugurated as governor, and delivered his 
first message to the legislature, June 3, 1869. 

Mr. Stearns always took a warm interest in Dartmouth 
college, and in 1857 it conferred upon him the honorary 
degree of master of arts. He contributed liberally to its 
support ; and he made his first address as chief magistrate 
of the state on the occasion of the college centennial in 1869, 
taking strong ground in favor of such aid by the state as 
should "make the college permanently effective for the pub- 
lic good." 

On the 7th of January, 1870, Mr. Stearns was unanimous- 
ly renominated as the Republican candidate for governor, 
but sent a letter to the convention declining the renomina- 
tion, on account of the state of his health and the pressing 
claims of business. The convention refused to accept his 
declination, and appointed a committee to wait upon him 
and urge him to withdraw it, which he finally did. 

The political campaign of 1870 in New Hampshire was 
exceedingly close and severe, there being four well-support- 
ed state tickets in the field, and a majority vote being re- 
quired to elect ; but Mr. Stearns received a handsome ma- 
jority over the three other candidates, and was qualified for 
his second term of office in June, 1870. At the close of his 
service as governor, he delivered a concise address to the 
legislature, giving a clear statement of the condition of the 
various state interests. During the two years he was gov- 
ernor, he gave especial attention to the financial interests of 
the state, and to reforms in the management of the state 

prison. The state debt was reduced nearly one third during 
that time, while the state tax was reduced more than one 
half. The entire management of the state prison was 
changed by him, though he met with much opposition from 
those friends of prison reform whose views differed from 
his. The result justified the wisdom of his course, for the 
prison, which was before ill disciplined, expensively man- 
aged, and a constant charge to the state, soon became well 
managed, and produced a satisfactory revenue above its 
expenses, while the care and condition of its inmates were 
much improved. 

Although strong in his attachment to the principles of his 
political party, and zealous for its success, Mr. Stearns was 
always supported by many of his fellow-citizens, who, while 
differing from him in political views, esteemed and respected 
him for the purity of his character and the ability and im- 
partiality with which he discharged his official duties. In 
official station, he knew no party. He was the first Repub- 
lican governor of New Hampshire who nominated a Demo- 
crat to a position on the bench ; and his nomination of Hon. 
Harry Hibbard, one of the most prominent Democrats in 
the state, as justice of the supreme judicial court, in 1870, 
though opposed by many ardent Republicans at the time, 
has since been recognized as one of the wisest of his official 

As chief magistrate of the state, Mr. Stearns displayed the 
same close attention to details and sound practical sense that 
he manifested in private business. No interest of the state 
failed to receive his patient and careful study. The reports 
and affairs of the various state departments were examined 
by him for a series of years, and all his recommendations to 
the legislature were the result of accurate knowledge, and 
not of mere general impressions. 

In his social and family relations, Mr. Stearns was spe- 
cially happy. He married Mary A. Holbrook, daughter of 
Hon. Adin Holbrook, of Lowell, Mass., June 26, 1845 ; and 

in 1846 he removed to Concord, N. H., where he purchased 
an estate on Main street, which he improved to suit his 
taste and to accommodate his increasing" family, and where 
he lived till his death, December 29, 1878. He had a fam- 
ily of one son and four daughters, all of whom, with their 
mother, survive him. 

In the discharge of all social duties, Mr. Stearns was ex- 
ceeding faithful, and he never failed fully to perform his 
part in any work which w^as for the benefit of his neighbor- 
hood or city. At the breaking out of the war for the Union, 
he took an active part in the raising of men and money for 
the army, and was one of the originators and officers of the 
Soldiers' Aid Society of New Hampshire, in the work of 
which he continued to labor during the entire war, giving 
liberally of his time and means to its support. He was al- 
ways a constant attendant upon the services of the Unita- 
rian church, and one of its most liberal supporters. He 
continued to discharge the duties of president of the North- 
ern Railroad and of the Concord Railroad, and to attend to 
his large pri\-ate business, until his last illness, which was of 
but a few days' duration. His mental capacity and vigor 
remained unimpaired to the last. He passed quietly away, 
on the 29th day of December, 1878, surrounded by all his 
immediate family, except his eldest daughter, who was then 
on her way from the West. 


At a meeting of the directors of the Northern Railroad, 
held in Boston, January 3, 1879, the following resolutions 
were unanimously adopted : 

Resolved, That in the recent death of Hon. Onslow 
Stearns, we feel a great loss to ourselves personally, and 
to this company. It has terminated the harmonious and 
pleasant relations, which, for a quarter of a century, have 
existed between the members of this board and him, as 
their associate and president; and it has taken from the 
company a most capable and faithful officer, — one whose 
long-continued services for its interests, and whose well 
known industry, honesty, and economy in the management 
of its affairs will be gratefully remembered by its stock- 
holders. The courage and persistency with which, de- 
spite the weakness and pain of disease, and against the 
fears of friends, he continued attention to the cares and 
duties of his position up to his latest days, were in full con- 
sistency with the spirit and fidelity which characterized his 
whole life. 

Resolved, That this testimonial be placed upon the records 
of the corporation, and that the clerk be directed to trans- 
mit a copy thereof to the family of the deceased. 


At a meeting" of the directors of the Concord Raih'oad, 
held January lO, 1879, ^^""^ following resolutions were unani- 
mously adopted : 

Resolved, That the members of this board express their 
deep regret at the death of their president and associate, 
Hon. Onslow Stearns and place upon the record their 
appreciation of the courtesy which characterized his official 
relations, and their high respect for the integrity, fidelity, 
and signal success with which he performed the many im- 
portant duties entrusted to his charge. 

Resolved, That the clerk be instructed to furnish a copy 
of these resolutions to the family of the deceased. 

At a special meeting of the directors of the Old Colony 
Railroad Company, held in Boston on Tuesday, the 31st day 
of December, A. D. 1878, the following resolutions were 
adopted : 

Resolved, That this board has heard with sincere sorrow 
of the death of their associate director and late president, 
the Hon. Onslow Stearns, and gratefully remember the 
valuable services he has rendered this company for many 
years as a director and former president. 

Resolved, That this board will attend the funeral of their 
deceased associate at Concord, N. H., on Thursday next, as 
an expression of their respect. 

Resolved, That the directors respectfully tender to Mrs. 
Stearns and her family their sympathy in this great af- 
fliction, and that the clerk be directed to send to Mrs. 
Stearns a copy of these resolutions. 


At a meeting- of the executive committee of the Central 
Vermont Railroad Line, held in Boston, December 31st, 
1878, the following resolutions were unanimously adopted : 

Resolved. That while we recognize in this sad event the 
inscrutable decrees of Almighty God, we mourn the loss of 
our esteemed friend and associate ; that we cherish with 
profound respect his labors in the great enterprise which we 
represent, and his counsels, which were always character- 
ized by thoughtful prudence and eminent integrity ; while 
we also hold in pleasing remembrance his kindly and genial 
presence and companionship, and the friendship which years 
of intimacy have only served to strengthen and cement. 

Resolved, That we extend to the bereaved family of our 
departed friend our sincerest condolence and sympathy in 
this their great affliction. 

Resolved, That, as a token of our respect, the clerk of 
this board be instructed to enter these resolutions upon the 
records of our meetings, and transmit a copy thereof to 
the family of the deceased. 


The funeral services were held at Concord on the 2d of 
January, 1879. The remahis were escorted by several hun- 
dred workmen from the shops of the Northern and Concord 
railroads to the Unitarian church, where they were viewed 
by a large concourse of the people of Concord and adjoin- 
ing places. 

There was a large attendance of public men and promi- 
inent railroad officials from New Hampshire, Massachusetts, 
Vermont, and other states, including the governor of New 
Hampshire, members of the executive council, the secretary 
of state, the president of the senate, and other state officials, 
together with several members of Mr. Stearns's staff when 
governor, the mayor and members of the city government 
of Concord, judges of the supreme court of the state, the 
judge of the U. S. district court, the directors and officers 
of the Northern (N. H.), the Concord, the Old Colony, the 
Central Vermont, the Passumpsic, the Boston, Concord & 
Montreal, the Manchester & Lawrence, the Concord & 
Portsmouth, the Boston & Lowell, the Nashua & Worces- 
ter, and other railroads. 

The pall-bearers were B. F. Prescott, Natt Head, Fred- 
erick Smyth, James A. Weston, P. C. Cheney, and Walter 
Harriman, respectively governor, governor-elect, and ex-gov- 
ernors of New Hampshire. The casket was carried by the 


master mechanics and master car-builders of the Northern, 
Concord, and Old Colony railroads. 

The services at the church commenced soon after 12 
o'clock. Selections from Scripture were read and prayer 
was offered by the pastor, Rev. S. C. Beane. The funeral 
address was delivered by Rev. Augustus Woodbury, of Prov- 
idence, R. I., a former pastor of the Society, and one of Mr. 
Stearns's oldest and most intimate friends. The remains 
were buried at Blossom Hill Cemetery. 



When we are brought face to face with death, as it oc- 
curs in the circle of our home or of our friendship, we find 
ourselves asking- the old question, "If a man die, shall 
he live again ?" It has been asked for centuries. The heart 
asks it, as it feels its desolation. The mind asks it, as it 
looks over the wide field of life, and sees here and there 
men and women, young and old, the happy and the sorrow- 
ing, pass away from the scene of active existence. Is this 
all that we have.? Are these warm affections forever 
quenched ? Are these high ambitions wholly stifled ? Shall 
these aspirations, which seek the loftiest summits, be doom 
ed to eternal disappointment.? Will these needs of the 
spirit, which demand better and more lasting things than 
any which earth can furnish, never come to their full sup- 
ply ? We cannot believe it. Here are uncompleted plans 
and unsatisfied desires. One day we are full of joy and 
active, vigorous life, looking forward and reaching forward 
to large attainments of being, full of a generous enthusi- 
asm in our work and a spirit of faithfulness in our duty, 
believing that our work and our duty are accomplishing 
good results. The next day we are stricken with disease 
and marked by death, our plans miscarrying, our work 
interrupted, our duty left unfinished. Is this the end > Ah ! 

our hearts answer us that it is not the end. Love does not 
thus lose its object. The promise of life is not thus left to 
disappointment. It would be cruel to create beings, whose 
best and highest desires seek for things beyond this earth 
and time, and whose hearts and souls cry out for God and 
heaven and immortality, and leave them the victims of such 
a delusion. Craving the fulness of the future, and really 
needing the heavenly atmosphere in which to unfold our 
best powers and to grow the best fruits of hfe, we feel as- 
sured that the craving and the need will be supplied. Even 
our disappointments teach us of a satisfaction somewhere, 
and our failures become the testimony to a complete success 
in some higher sphere of life. 

The Italian poet, Dante, in some of his writings, has an 
illustration of a traveller looking forward at almost every 
stage of his journey to find an inn, thinking that every 
house he sees upon the road may be his resting-place, but 
still compelled to go farther on, as he ascertains that no 
one of these is the end of his journey and the point of his 
destination. So are we but travellers and pilgrims on this 
earthly journey; and as we go on, our hearts are disap- 
pointed in the anticipation of having a place to rest here 
or there, and a home in this place or in that, because there 
is no real home for our souls anywhere but in the eternal 
mansions of our Father's house on high. How much we 
have to learn of the life to come, from the incompleteness 
of the life that now is ! Nature joins with revelation in 
telling us of a home beyond the skies. 

Our successes, too, — are there not some lessons to learn 
from them.'' Who ever Was fully satisfied with what he 
has accomplished here ? What high and generous soul has 
ever felt that it has done as well and as faithfully as it was 
capable of doing ? Even when it has done its best, there 
still is the feeling that there is something better challeng- 
ing its endeavor and inviting its effort. It has not yet 
done its worthiest. There are more and greater things to 


be attained. There are loftier heights to reach. There is 
the consciousness that the nature, with which God has gifted 
his children, is capable of a larger and better life than this 
which we call earthly. And then our hopes, — what do they 
suggest .'' The sweetest element of life, next to the love 
which stands at the head of all our being, is hope. It is 
the joy of the happy, as they look forward to even brighter 
scenes. It dries the mourner's tear, as it calls up the view 
of reunited hearts in a home into which pain and sickness 
and death cannot enter. It is like the sun, dispersing all 
the clouds that overshadow the life. It is the brightness of 
the divine glory, shining in upon the darkness of human 

" Hope is comfort in distress ; 

Hope is in misfortune bliss; 

Hope in sorrow is delight ; 

Hope is day in darkest night ; 

Hope casts anchor upward where 

Storms durst never domineer: 

Trust, and hope will welcome thee 

From storms to full security." 

Thus our aspirations, our desires, our ambitions, our defeats, 
our successes, our hopes, all unite in helping us to answer the 
question which has vexed the human mind through all these 
centuries. And then to these is added the sublime word 
of revelation: "I am the resurrection and the life," saith 
the Lord Jesus ; " he that believeth in me, though he were 
dead, yet shall he live ; and whosoever liveth and believeth 
in me shall never die." " For we know," saith Paul the 
Apostle, " that if our earthly house of this tabernacle be 
dissolved, we have a building oi God, a house not made 
with hands, eternal in the heavens." "This corruption 
must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on im- 
mortality." Is not the question answered ? " If a man 
die, shall he live again ? " Surely he shall live. He shall 
live upon the earth in all happy, tender memories of his 
true and faithful life. He shall live in the work he has 


done, in the increase of good which he has wrought. He 
shall live in the influence which the thought of his life 
shall exert through many years to come. He shall live in 
the hopes which the divine love excites, that after a little 
while we shall see him again, and then no one shall take 
away our joy. "The memorial of virtue is immortal," says 
one of the old writers. Character has an immortality upon 
the earth, and every good man lives in the lives of his fel- 
low-men, made better and stronger by his faithfulness. 
"Shall he live again.''" Surely shall he live again in the 
heavenly state, going on to new attainments, perpetually • 
reaching forward to new perfections. An immortal memo- 
rial on earth — an everlasting growth of the spirit in heaven ! 
Are we to mourn our friend to whom such a rich blessing 
has been vouchsafed ? 

Death is no curse, but a step in advance to those who 
pass from earth. The rupture of the bonds wdiich here 
unite friendly and congenial souls causes pain. It is nat- 
ural. But there are bonds which death cannot break. As, 
when a friend goes to the other side of the world, he takes 
our affections and thoughts with him, so, when a friend goes 
to the other side of the grave, he carries with him a part of 
ourselves. It is finely said of Motley, that the death of his 
wife, to whom he was devotedly attached, "removed the 
centre of his thought to a new world," and changed his 
"point of view of the whole course and relation of things." 
Surely, an event which has an effect like that upon those 
who are left behind cannot be a curse, because it tends to 
elevate and purify the affections, and give to life a more 
sacred character. Where our treasure is, there will our 
hearts be also. If the treasure of our love is in heaven, will 
not our hearts be there ? The sense of bereavement will 
still remain, but our hope and love take from it its bitter- 
ness and sting. Nor can death be a curse to those whom it 
removes from scenes of earthly activity, for it introduces 
them into new and higher spheres of being, and sets them 


forward on a life of ever-advancing goodness and ever- 
growing virtue. Will they be so far advanced as not to 
know us, when we, too, shall pass from death to life ? Then 
let us be careful that we on earth keep pace with them in 
heaven ! 

In such a frame of mind and spirit we would come to-day 
to this service of love. We do not grieve for our friend, 
whose face we have looked on for the last time in life, as 
those who mourn without hope. We recognize the worth 
of the life that he has lived. We rejoice in the rich legacy 
of virtue and genuine manhood which he has bequeathed to 
us. The wealth of a high character is better than houses 
and lands; and the benefit of a fine example of true success 
in life is better than any which the acquisition of earthly 
riches can give. Our friend has done his life-work with a 
rare fidelity and thoroughness, neglecting nothing and for- 
getting nothing ; carrying in his mind all the varied inter- 
ests of church, home, friendship, business ; and doing with 
his hand what his clear thought and kind heart directed 
him to do. " He liveth long who liveth well." Surely he 
has had a long life, crowded with kindnesses for his friends 
and useful labors for his fellow-men. Now that he has passed 
from "this bank and shoal of time," there are thousands who 
will say that a good man has gone to his reward. 

I need not recount the story of Gov. Stearns's life in its 
details. Since he has been identified with the interests of 
this state, his career has been familiar to all its citizens; and 
to-day I doubt if there is one who will seek to find a stain 
upon the fair and honorable record of his life. He came 
here comparatively unknown, except within the circle of a 
special occupation. But he was known there for great na- 
tive ability, and for the power of a clear and sagacious judg- 
ment of men and affairs. His early advantages were only 
those which belong to a majority of New England boys, re- 
ceiving the instruction of the common-schools of the period. 
The summer was devoted to labor, and the winter gave 


leisure for study. The opportunity was all the more valued 
because the time was brief; and that the youth made good 
use of his time, the success of the man amply proved. With 
a love for out-door work, he \ery early in his life — leaving 
his home in Billerica, Mass., at the age of eighteen — en- 
gaged in the business of railway construction, which was 
then opening a new field for enterprise and adventure. 
This business gradually made its way into New Hampshire, 
hindered at first by a reasonable fear of corporation influ- 
ence, but accepted at last as a necessity for communication 
and as a means of prosperity. In the flush of his manhood 
he came here and established his home. In that home he 
has continued to live, steadily acquiring a competence, and 
winning his way, step by step, to public confidence ; sur- 
rounding himself with warm and devoted friends, exercising 
a generous hospitality, and ready at all times, with an en- 
couraging word and a kindly help, to do a favor, to give 
wise counsel, and to aid those who were struggling forward 
in the line in which he had himself won fortune and distinc- 
tion. Many a young man, — not here alone, but in different 
parts of the country, and even beyond the sea, — must ac- 
knowledge his obligations to our friend for timely assist- 
ance, and will drop a grateful tear to his memory. If many 
hearts have been saddened by the intelligence of his death, 
many hearts will be glad that he has lived thus long and 

Mr. Stearns loved work. I think he loved it for its 
own sake. Perhaps he loved it too well, for even the 
hours of his recreation had also their duties. He was 
scarcely, if ever, idle. He had no satisfaction except in 
the laborious performance of his duty. Friends would 
remonstrate with him and predict that he would break 
down beneath the burden, but till within a few years 
it seemed as though he were incapable of fatigue. Not 
content with carrying a burden such as the strongest would 
think sufficient for their strength, he would insist upon 


taking more upon his broad shoulders. Even through his 
hours of sickness his mind was still active, and his hand 
reached forth to execute his plans of usefulness and good. 
Yet he did not hurry. He always had time to give a word 
of greeting to a friend ; patience to hear the thousand and 
one cases that came to him for judgment, even to the slight- 
est details ; a considerate thoughtfulness to the needs of 
distant friends ; and a faithful discharge of every trust con- 
nected with the administration of the estates of his wards. 
Nor did he fritter away his time in useless occupations. No 
hour was wasted ; he was busy to the very last. 

With all this multiplicity of business, our friend had a 
great executive capacity. There are many persons who 
lead busy lives, and are found engaged in many occu- 
pations, but, upon questioning them and examining their 
career, you find that they fail to grasp the real compass and 
character of the work in which they are employed. It was 
not so with our friend. Every detail of his various trusts 
was familiar to him. The facts were all stored away, each 
in its proper place, and ready to his tongue and hand. With 
an excellent judgment of men, he knew where to find the 
proper person to do the special work which he had decided 
upon accomplishing. In the chosen vocation of his life this 
was especially marked. Of course there are those who 
would say that he had his favorites, but there are none who 
would say that those favorites were not well chosen. He 
would not give, even to a friend, a position for which that 
friend was not suited. Knowing his men, he placed them 
where he knew they would be most useful and most effi- 
cient. Those whom he employed, and those whom he 
served, unite to-day in the acknowledgment of the clearness 
of his judgment. 

When Mr. Stearns was called to be governor of the state, 
this executive ability of his came into requisition in the ad- 
ministration of affairs. It was a judicious, an able, an eco- 
nomical, and an honorable administration. In his messages 


and his public addresses he maintained the dignity of his 
office and the credit of the state. Always calm, sensible, 
terse, and to the point, although without the graces of 
oratory or the display of rhetoric, they were so much a 
part of the man as to be natural and just. In the manage- 
ment of the state's finances he was of course successful. 
In general affairs he was so equitable as to be free from 
the acerbities of partisan feeling, and safe from the violence 
of partisan attack. Perhaps the chief act of his adminis- 
tration, and one which may not have been so much appreci- 
ated as it ought to be, was the reform which he instituted 
and carried through in the management of the state prison, 
I have occasion to know that his plans were carefully and 
conscientiously studied before they were carried into execu- 
tion. The result has justified their wisdom, and there is 
no one now who would think of going back to the old sys- 
tem, so liable as it was to be perverted to bad uses and 
evil ends. 

It is hardly my province to speak of Mr. Stearns's con- 
nection with this religious society. It belongs rather to 
his immediate pastor, who in due time will utter his word 
of grateful appreciation. But I cannot pass by this point 
without pausing, for a single moment, to allude at least to 
the constant interest he has shown and the generous sup- 
port he has given here. Conservative, yet liberal in his 
theology, he was always strong in his convictions of the 
Christian truth. Always a good parishioner, each succes- 
sive pastor has experienced his kindness ; or, if at any 
time there may have been a difference, each successive 
pastor knew that it arose from a just and conscientious de- 
votion to the interests of the society and the good of the 
church. His hand was always open and his heart was 
always warm to the aid and sustenance of this religious 
enterprise. It owes him much; and those who worship here 
will long mourn the absence of the " good gray head that 
all men knew." 


Withal, our friend was a thoroughly New Hampshire 
man. Though not a " native here, and to the manner born," 
he had yet lived here so long as to be fully imbued with the 
spirit of the people and their institutions. A sturdy inde- 
pendence and integrity, a careful thrift, a clearness of in- 
tellectual insight, a quiet, unpretending demeanor, a steady 
firmness of principle and purpose, are the best characteris- 
tics of New Hampshire men and women. The people, like 
the hills, are steadfast and true, positive in their standing, 
and rooted to the centre of things. That strong, hard, 
rugged face, that looks down the valley from your moun- 
tain-top, may well be taken for the type. But, within the 
ruggedness and the hardness of outline and exterior, there 
are, as I know full well, warm hearts, beating true in their 
pulsations to the love of justice, liberty, and truth. It be- 
came natural to our friend to take a lively interest in all 
that pertained to the welfare of his adopted state. When 
urged to change his residence to another and more con- 
venient point, that he might be free from the fatigues of 
his frequent journeys to Boston, his reply was, "No; I 
have cast in my part and lot with the people of New Hamp- 
shire. They have honored me with their confidence. My 
time and strength shall be theirs while I live." And so he 
came here and lived among you, and died in the midst of 
you, a true, devoted, public-spirited citizen, always faithful, 
and always ready to spend and be spent in your service. 

Thus far I have spoken of our friend mostly as a public 
man. But with him private virtue and public spirit were 
very closely linked together. It is not even for me to lift 
the veil which guards the sacred precincts of home and 
private friendship. But this much I can say, that he was 
always true, constant, and sincere. There was not one 
phase of life for the public, and another for the family and 
the neighborhood. He was the same always — as careful 
and painstaking to see that all the details of home-life were 
made as they ought to be, for the comfort of those he 
loved, as he was that all the details of his business should 


be arranged for the best interests of those whom he served. 
How generous was his hospitality! It was his fortune to 
have had as guests at different times two Presidents of the 
United States ; and he spared no labor, even when weak- 
ened by sickness, to make the visit a continual enjoyment. 
But his care and attention were given to the humblest guest 
as well, to see that none should lack whatever courtesy and 
considerateness could afford. And what thoughtfulness he 
exercised in a thousand ways, all who knew him can amply 

Shall I speak of personal traits .'' — of that persistence of 
purpose, which often silently, but always steadily, carried 
to completion the plan he had settled in his mind ? — of that 
strength of will which in his season of health gave him a 
powerful influence for good in the community, and which, 
when sickness came, contended manfully against the prog- 
ress of the insidious disease that was sapping his strength, 
refusing to yield until the vigor of the body was completely 
gone ? — of that warmth and tenderness of affection which 
endeared him to his immediate kindred and to his large 
circle of friends i* — of that constancy of mind and heart 
which made him true and faithful in every relation of life ? 
All these, and more, will be gratefully remembered by us all, 
as his name will be to us, as long as we live, the synonyme 
of manliness, fidelity, and virtue. 

Thus he has lived, and thus he has died. Reticent on 
religious subjects, he sometimes gave to his intimate friends 
a glimpse of his interior life. His beliefs were positive, 
and his faith in God and immortality and the truth of Christ 
was deep and abiding. But his religion was more of deeds 
than of words, and more of practice than of profession. 
He bore his weaknesses and pains with a patient and cheer- 
ful heart, and he looked forward to the hour of death with- 
out a doubt or fear. So, when the time came, he sank 
away quietly to sleep, and entered into his immortal rest. 
Our i)rayers are for ourselves, our hopes for him. To him, 
and to all beyond the river, be peace forevermore! 


Extract from a Discourse preached in the Unitarian church in Concord, N. H., Jan. 12, 18 


I John ii, 17. 

How varied and manifold was that busy life to which our 
community and the state, and so many of the important in- 
terests of New England, have just paid their grateful tribute! 
It is bewildering even to read from the public press of the 
succession and involution of cares and enterprises which he 
not only took upon himself, but which, for the most part, 
were laid upon him for his superior ability, and all of which 
he carried bravely and persistently to or towards success. 
Possibly no American citizen, — not even a chief executive 
of the republic, — has ever had, at one time, a greater com- 
plexity of duties, both comprehensive and minute, — both 
reaching far and descending to the smallest details, — than 
had this quiet, unobtrusive, and calm-minded man, who was 
our neighbor and fellow-worshipper. And the combined 
sagacity and fidelity with which he executed all trusts, with 
so little unfavorable criticism of his skill, and so infrequent 
suspicion of his motives, are well-nigh marvellous in these 
days of popular distrust and partisan disparagement. 

To estimate such a life, in its purely intellectual qualities, 
is quite beyond the power of those who have not had large 
occasion to use such qualities, or to feel the need of them. 
Certainly no man could have less of the conceit of genius 


than had our ex-governor. Some one, however, has defined 
genius as "the infinite capacity for taking pains," and in 
this meaning, surely, our friend fitted the name. Sir William 
Hamilton declares that each and every step of knowledge 
and intellectual gain is in itself short and easy, and that the 
mental path from this to that is in every instance as simple 
as the advance from the first letter of the alphabet to the 
second. So that, given an average mind, faithful patience 
does all the rest. But what an herculean patience must be 
required in a youth, who, with no special schooling or social 
advantages for prestige, begins in total ignorance of a great 
calling, and makes his way from its foundation to its com- 
manding heights ! 

In those large business ventures and trusts, no brilliant 
general knowledge can meet the need : each grade and item 
of the work must be learned, — slowly, practically, and in its 
wide ramifications. And, let me add, no mere ambition, 
divorced from fidelity, from honor, and from conscience, can 
achieve so great and varied results, without some fatal flaw 
which shall spoil the whole. 

Again : our friend's pursuits were in themselves useful, 
honorable, and in the necessary line of human advancement 
and civilization. Not a stroke of such labor is lost : if well 
done, it is all wrought into the vast system of social welfare. 
Human intercourse, rapid transit, the interchange of the 
products of farm and factory, the binding together of sec- 
tions of the country, the development of unimproved dis- 
tricts, and the equalizing of social advantages, — there is no 
better vocation to which to give one's energies and talents. 

It was fitting that he who had shown such ability for or- 
ganizing and executing large plans, should be called to the 
legislature, and to the highest office of the state. Such ad- 
vancements are in accord with the true social and civil ser- 
vice, and with the parable of him who, having been faithful 
over one city, was made ruler over ten. From no citizen 
have I heard the first intimation that those years in which 


you conferred upon him your highest honors, were not years 
of faithfulness, dignity, and economy, and characterized by 
the purpose and the will to correct all mistakes, reform 
abuses, and impart the best wisdom of private thrift to the 
affairs of the commonwealth. 

"It is required of stewards," says an apostle, "that they 
be found faithful ; " and he might have added another re- 
quirement, involved in the first, and no less important, 
namely, that they demand faithfulness in others. If ever 
the discipline of the martinet is both excusable and requi- 
site, it is in such works as involve the comfort, the safety, 
and the very lives of the people. Irksome, at first, it may 
be, both to him who is in authorit}', and to those who serve, 
but as righteous and merciful in the large account as are 
those strict laws of God which hem us in by a hair's-breadth, 
and make every transgression or neglect a loss and a tor- 
ture. Our friend was a severe disciplinarian, requiring that 
all work should be done to the utmost letter of the obliga- 
tion, each hour to be filled full of its expected accomplish- 
ment, each joint and nail to serve its strong and durable 
purpose, and each word to be a simple yea or nay, without 
that half-promise or that excess of affirmation, which, as the 
Master says, comes from evil. Of course this discipline, 
or, rather, regimen, like all best things, may be carried to 
an extreme; but as I listen to the thankful testimony of 
the well-trained workmen who by our friend were educated 
for responsible positions in this severe school, and when I 
see how strong and unimpeachable stand to-day the impor- 
tant works to which his hands and theirs were given, I am 
convinced that he was one of America's best teachers of 
the lessons which we, as a people, need to have written in 
fire before our eyes, — of the wickedness of loose obligations 
and meretricious labor, of the adulterations of human life 
and work ; and that, if we would outdo the other nations in 
the high industries, we must excel them in patient faithful- 
ness, in an honest conscience, and in the nicer balance of 


accounts between man and man. But by the confession of 
all, underneath the school-master and the taskmaster, there 
was a delicate and tender and just appreciativeness, which 
praised every good endeavor, gave bounty to signal desert, 
and made each faithful man a friend and brother. 

It could hardly be expected that a man, so taxed on every 
side and in every faculty by the demands of his secular vo- 
cations, should be also a practical leader in the social, moral, 
and religious enterprises of the day. Indeed, all the hours 
one can spare from his home under such circumstances, all 
the life of his conscience, and all the Christian faith and 
purpose that are possible to him, may be devoted, without 
waste or shortcoming, to those immense duties and obliga- 
tions which, as in our friend's case, were enough to absorb 
two or three minds instead of one. 

It was a surprise to me, not that he gave no more, but 
that he could find the will and leisure to give so much, of 
care to these other and sublime concerns. Indeed, to what 
good cause, — to what charity or public improvement, — were 
not his influence and support given ? 

As a member of this religious society he was a pillar of 
strength, upon whom we all depended, and with such confi- 
dence! A generous contributor of his ample means, and a 
constant worshipper, he was also a ready and happy attend- 
ant upon our social meetings, where in democratic fraternity 
'he knew all and cared for all; and, even to the minutest in- 
cident of our church life, he was constantly informed and 
always interested. From my few conversations with him 
upon the subject, I learned that if there were anything 
which he believed in more than financial principles, more 
than party platforms, more than any institution or pol- 
ity, it was that liberal Christianity which he would make 
the power and joy of every life, as it was of his own. From 
the humblest church duty to the ofificership of our National 
Conference, he told his creed, his hope, and his faith, as a 
glad and unshrinking witness. 


It was a joy to see that, until the very end, no good affec- 
tion or concern of his life was wasted or weakened by dis- 
ease. During the hours just preceding Christmas, — which 
were almost the last hours of clear consciousness, — he was 
busy, in spite of his fatal and fast-increasing malady, in re- 
membering the usual objects of his annual beneficence, and 
in adding new names to the list. 

Friends, there is no death, nor even a magic and trans- 
forming change, in such a man's departure. What would 
heaven be to him, without labor still for every faculty, with- 
out care and sympathy, without the thought of us .' He is 
simply lifted up, freed, and made more truly himself. Ours 
the only fault, if he does not live with us, in us, and through 
us, — if, with him and by his side, we do not now work with 
renewed labor and self-sacrifice for the things he loved so 

He still does and must fill his own place. His name is 
not obliterated, but freshly written, and with illuminated 
letters, upon our record. If we will, he has but just begun 
to live to us. 

Not as a saint by specialty, not as a pale spirit that made 
holiness a calling apart from the world's work, but as a 
man of flesh and blood, of understanding and sagacity, of 
a sound conscience and a firm but gentle heart, who did his 
full share in leavening the secular industries and relations 
about us with the leaven of the kingdom of heaven, — thus 
do we regard and cherish him to-day. So 

" we but die to live; 

It is from death we 're flying; 

Forever lives our life ; 

For us there is no dying. 

We die but as the spring-bud dies, 

In summer's golden glow to rise. 

These be our days of April bloom, 

Our July is beyond the tomb." 


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