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Full text of "Walter Titus Avery"

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REYNOLDS HlSTORlCAL. 
GENEALOGY COLLECTION 



ALLEN COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRABY 



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^ 2005154 

WALTER TITUS AYERY. 

In 1S71, when our Association was in its infancy, when, in 
fact, it was but one year old, a stranj^er came to Deerfield. 
So far as known, no one here knew him, no one welcomed 
him. Yet. for some reason he had come; for some reason 
he Hngered, wandering through tliis ebn-arched street and 
breathing in the air of this old, historic town. When he went 
away, he had become a life member of our Association by the 
payment of twenty-five dollars. The President of this Asso- 
ciation, speaking of the incident, said "This elated me! We 
had but just started. There was little interest in the move- 
, ment. Only a few of our elderly and middle-aged people 

cared for it; but here was a total stranger who was not only 
interested in our undertaking, but who proved his faith in 
the objects of the Association in the substantial manner of 
becoming a life member." 

Words cannot tell of the encouragement received from 
sympathetic help for a cause just struggling into being, be- 
cause there are no words that adequately express the new 
sense of strength and gladness one feels. 
^ The name of the stranger was Walter T. Avery. His home 

\ was New York City. 

K In 1878, after much effort, the Old Academy had been 

"^ secured for a Memorial Hall. It was a time when there were 

i^ many who could not understand why the relics of the past 

v^ should be saved. "These things," they said, "have served 

t their day; they are now useless rubbish, — let them go." 

But Walter T. Avery was not one of these. He knew that 
every relic, however dingy, however homely in itself, is a 
connecting link in the evolution of early New England life, 
!^ without which the history of that life is incomplete, with 

*-' which it is a priceless heritage to hand down to posterity. 

3^ 



2 Waller Til us Anr)/. 

Money was needed to transfcjrni the Academy into a Hall 
that should preserve the records and the I'elics of the past, 
and on July 15, 1879, Mr. Avery sent a contribution of $25, 
to aid in this purpose, followetl, March 10, 1S80, by anothei- 
of the same amount. This proved that his interest was not 
impulsive and temjiorary, but was constant throu.uh the 
years. 

On the twenty-first of last January word came to us tliat 
the Association had received a lejiacy of §1,000 from Walter 
T. Avery of New York. Thus was the seal set upon his. 
strong, abiding faith. 

Why did this stranger come to Deerfield? His home and 
the home of his father before him was far away in the heart 
of the largest city of America. 

Why did this stranger take such a living interest in our 
Association? 

To answer these questions we must know something not 
only of the life of Walter T. Avery but also of the sources of 
that life. We are not wholly creatures of environment; on 
the coritrary, we are, in large measure, what our fathers and 
mothers, our grandfathers and grandmothers have made us. 

Go l>ack v/ith me 255 years and stand on the shores of 
Massachusetts Bay. Look out upon the tossing white-caps 
of the old gray sea, till you discern on the far horizon a tiny 
speck; watch it till it grows into a ship with white sails 
spread and with prow turned westward. This little vessel 
has buffeted the winds and tlie storms of the mighty Atlantic 
for weeks, aye, for months, but now it is nearing port. Among 
the passengers on deck scanning with breathless eagerness 
the new land and the new home rising out of the waters are 
William and Margaret Avery with their three little children. 
Mary of five years, William of three, and baby Robert. 

The father and mother have left their native land with all 
its tender associations, a co!nf()rtal)le home amid the rural 
beauty of l^arkham in the county of Berkshire, England, — 
and for what? For a dangerous voyage and a home in a land 
peopled by savages, where toil and privation must be their 
daily portion. 

But this does not tell the storv of the secret of their com- 



Wallrr Titus Avery. 3 

ing. Men do not f^ivc^ up roinfort for hardship without an all- 
controlling purpose. It was this purpose that ilhunin<Hl the 
faees of the men and women on board that little vessel as 
she rode triumphant into Boston Harbor in KioO. They had 
come for thr.t which lumianity throu,<;h all the a,o;es has, at 
times, yearned for, — a lar<j;er life, a freer air to breathe. This 
they found in America, the land that strugsl*^^ to make men 
free. 

William Avery took his family to Dedham, a little planta- 
tion only fifteen years old. What a warm feelinsi; it gives us 
to know that the sturdy settler of this home in the wildojness 
first named it Contentment. Here a house was built almost 
under the boughs of an oak wiiicli even then was an old tree. 
In this home four more children were born to William and 
Margaret Avery. 

In 1G50, according to the Dedham town records: 

" It was granted unto Wm. Avery to set his shoppe in the 
highway in the east street, . . . always provided that when- 
soever the said shopp shall be no longer used for a Smythe's 
shopp, by the said William at any time hereafter then it 
shall be removed out of the highway, if the town shall recjuire 
the same." 

In l(iG4, according to Savage, William Avery w^as a mem- 
ber of "The Military Company of the Massachusetts," now 
so well known as "The Ancient and Honorable Artillery 
Company." I find this statement corroborated in the His- 
tory of the Company, ])ul)lishod in 1895. He was called 
Sergeant in IGGO and this year he was sent from Dedham as 
Deputy to the Cieneral Court. 

In 1G75 he was appointed by the court to examine Indians 
wlio wei-e suspected of some base designs against the F.ng- 
lish, and it is in connection with this entry in the town records 
that he is first given the title of Doctor. " History is silent," 
say the compilers of "The Dedham Branch of the Avery 
Family in America," "as to the date of his commencing the 
practice of medicine, other than this. Pie seems to have 
stepped into the ranks of medical men while carrying on his 
daily labor at the blacksmith's forge." 

In 1677 Dr. Avery was freeman. The next year, 1078, 



4 Walter Tifns Avery. 

twenty-eight years after their settlement in Dedhani, his 
wife Margaret died. Soon after this Dr. Avery left Dodluun 
and made his home in Boston. Here he was a bookseller at 
the Blue Anchor, not far from where the Old South Meeting- 
house stands to-day. 

These are a few of the incidents in Dr. Avery's life, but the 
one which interests us most, and which will forever connect 
his name w^ith Deerfield, is yet to be told. 

" In 1670 William Avery was one of the original Proprietors 
who took possession of the 8000 acres of land at Pocumtuck, 
granted to the town of Dedham in lieu of 2000 acres taken 
from the town by the General Court for the Indians at '^^^ 
Natick." 

We learn from the "History of Deerfield" that Sergeant 
Avery drew. May 14, 1671, house lot No. 22, the lot which 
afterward became the home for a longer or shorter period of 
four generations of Catlins, — the ancestors of Miss C. Alice 
Baker, — and which is now owned by Mrs. Elizabeth W. 
Wells. 

There is no evidence to show that Sergeant Avery ever 
came to Deerfield. ''In 1696, and probably much earlier," 
his house lot was held by Philip Mattoon. Afterwards it 
was owned by the Catlins and from them passed to the Wells 
family in 1819. 

Although Dr. Avery took up his residence in Boston, yet 
he did not forget his old Dedham home. Worthington, in 
his "History of Dedham," says: 

"111 1680 captain Daniel Fisher and ensign Fuller report 
that Dr. William Avery, now of Boston, but formerly of the 
Dedham Church, out of his entire love to this church and 
tow^n, frely gives into their hands sixty pounds, for a latin 
school, to be ordered by the selectmen and elders." The 
cause of education was an especial interest, and during his 
life "he made liberal donations to various public cliarities, 
among which was one to the college at Cambridge." 

On March 18, 1686, Dr. Avery died, being about sixty- 
five years old. His tombstone may be seen in King's Chapel 
Burying Ground in Boston near and facing Tremont Street, 
but I wish here to quote from a letter of his very great- 



Walter Titus Avery. 5 

grandson, Walter T. Avery, the subject of this sketcli. He 
says: " It is likely that this stone does not stand where it was 
originallv placed, as a number of tombstones were taken up 
and set in a row by some person. A })arbarism that should 
never have been sanctioned." These words, ''A barbarism 
that should never have been sanetioned," throw strong light 
on the true character of our stranger guest. 

Dr. William Avery left his Dedham homestead to his de- 
scendants. Around his old house and the old red oak his 
broad acres extended far, and until within a comparatively 
short time tlie estate has been held by the Avery fandly. 
The tree of four centuries or more still stands, bearing the ,^ 
name of "The Avery Oak." As I stood a few days ago V 
under tlie storm-beaten boughs of this grand old tree, my 
heart leaped with joy within me that there were such men as 
these Averys, who, generation after generation, had guarded 
this tree as a precious trust,— men who could not be tempted 
by money, for when, in 1794, the builder of the frigate "Con- 
stitution," our old Ironsides, offered §70 for the tree, it was 
refused by the owner who in this way said most emphatically 
the tree shall live. S005154 

So close is the union between nature and human nature 
that there are few who can look upon this sacred oak without 
a revelation of the truth that we are not creatures of the 
hour, not mushrooms of a day's or a night's growth, but that 
our roots reach back, back into the centuries, and for this 
reason and this reason only, do our branches extend up- 
ward and outward into the free air of the future. Let us 
rejoice and be glad that the Avery Oak is to-day cherished 
as a priceless legacy by the Dedham Historical Society. 

Of Dr. Avery's seven children, only Robert, the second 
son, concerns us. He was a baby, as I have said, when 
his father settled in Dedham. He became a blacksmith, 
learning the trade of his father. When twenty-seven years 
old he married Elizabeth Lane. She was a daughter of 
Job Lane, a wealthy and influential citizen of Maiden, Mass., 
and a Representative to the General Court. They had six 
children, of whom John was the fourth. Ensign Robert 
Avery died in 1722, in the seventy-third year of hs age. At 



Waller Titus Avery. 

the death of his widow in 174G their descendants were five 
children, thirty grandchildren, fifty-two great-grandchildren, 
and two great-great-grandchildren. 

Among the interesting relics of the Dedhaiu ^listorical 
Society is a silk fiag which was probably carried by Holx^rt 
Avery. 

Little can be found regarding the life and the personal 
traits of Robert and Elizabeth Avery, but we may judge 
somewhat of the parents by their son John, of whom much 
is known. This son, born in Dedham, February 4, lUSo-SG, 
graduated from Harvard in 1706. 

True, indeed, it is that history is the record of human 
lives which cannot be represented by parallel lines thrt 
never converge, but rather by lines that cross and rccross 
one another until an intricate network is formed. It so 
happened that the minister of Deerfield, Rev. John Williams, 
was appointed chaplain i]i June, 1709, in the futile expedition 
against Canada. He was probably away from home through 
the summer, as he was paid in September, £24 Ss. 8d., for his 
time and expenses. During a part of his absence his pulpit 
was filled by no other than John Avery, the young Har- 
vard graduate, and the great-gi-eat-grandfather of Walter T. 
Avery. 

In Deerfield then, John Avery was brought face to face 
with the stern actualities of life. Only five years had passed 
since the town was laid low. The shadow of that dark cloud 
still rested upon her and filled the hearts of her people with 
sadness. He stood in the pulpit of John Williams, — a man 
who had himself seen the fiendish horrors of the Indian 
attack and who had sounded its depth of infinite woe,— a 
man who even now w\as with the army destined for Canada 
where he vainly lioped to find his lost child. As John Avery 
preached his Sunday sermon he saw before him the wrecks 
of once happy families; he knew that the absent dear 
ones lay in a nameless grave near by, or were draggmg 
out a dreary existence under their French or Indian 
masters. 

There is little doubt that the young minister made his 
home, while in Deerfield, with the parson's wife, Mrs. Abigail 



Waller Tilus Avcnj. 7 

V/illiains, in the very house now standing on the old Albany 
Road. Samuel, Esther, Stephen and Warham, children of 
John Williams, had all been rescued from the savages and 
were full of tales of Indian tragedies. From his window, it 
may be, the minister looked out ui)on the ruins of Benoni 
Stebbins's home, and beyond to the hatchet-hewn door of 
Ensign John Sheldon's house. When he crossed the thresh- 
old of this desolate home, did he not Unger to hear from 
the Ensign's own lii)s the story of his three long journeys 
to Canada to redeem the loved ones? Here, too, came Cajjt. 
Jonathan W^lls, with his tales of Indian warfare; John 
Smead, carrying a bullet in his thigh received in the Meadow 
Fight, after the massacre; Thomas French, whose wife and 
six children had been captured or slain; John and Dorothy 
Stebbins, whose five children were still in captivity; ]\Iary 
Hinsdale, wife of Mehuman, whose child had been killed 
and whose husband was captured a second time that very 
summer; Ebenezer Warner, Samuel Barnard, Hannah Bea- 
man, and many another. Thus did John Avery come into 
the presence of men and women wlio could suffer and be 
strong. 

What imprint, think you, did these experiences leave on 
the brain and the heart of young John Avery? I, for one, 
l)elieve that such living experiences, which stir the nature to 
its very depth, must ]:!erforce give a tone, a strengtli of fibei", 
and a potent directive impulse, that may be handed dowii 
to children and to children's children. 

July 1(5, 1709, the town of Truro on Cape Cod was in- 
corporated, and in February, 1709-10, "it was unanimously 
agreed upon and voted to invite Air. John Avery ... to 
tarry with and settle amongst us" in the v.'ork of the min- 
istry. This invitation was accepted June 21, 1710. 

Although 1709 was the date of incorporation of the town, 
yet eighty-nine 3'ears befoi-e this time the land on which 
Truro was built became historic. Here the first party of 
Pilgrims sent out from the Mayflower to explore the region 
encamped for the night; liere they found a spring and being 
"most distressed foi- wante of drinke," they "refreshed 
them selves being y*" first New-England water they drank(; 



8 Waller Tilus Airrij. 

of." Proljably one of this exploring party was Richard 
Warren. He was "one of the ten principal men," who set 
out in the shalloji, December t), 1G20, on their final exploring 
trip, and who first discovered Plymouth Harbor and fixed 
upon a place of settlement. 

In the strain and stress of that desolate winter of 1G20 
would that Richard Warren jnight have caught a vision of 
the days that were to be. Would that he might have seen 
the sunny home in Truro near the refreshing spring that 
the Pilgrims discovered, where on November 23, 1710, his 
great-granddaugliter, Ruth Little, came as the happy bride of 
John Avery, a good man and true. But alas! Richard War- 
ren lived only eight years. He was "a useful instrument ana^ 
bore a deep share in the difficulties attending the first settle- 
ment of New Plymouth." 

I love to think of the simple home of John and Ruth 
Avery close by the dear, blue sea; of the ten little children 
who came to bless it, all of whom, save one, grew to manhood 
and womanhood. The kind husband and father was not 
only a preacher but also a doctor, a lawyer, a farmer, and a 
blacksmith. 

"His smithy where the good minister clad in leather apron 
' shaped the glowing iron with muscular arm ' stood just 
southwest of his house by the road. It is a fact that has been 
handed down from one generation to another, that Minister 
Avery, if busy at work when parties came to be married, 
would take off his leather apron, wash his hands and per- 
form the c(^remony." "He belonged," says the "Avery 
Family in America," "to a race of blacksmiths, physicians 
and clergymen, who, though they held high positions in so- 
ciety did not think it beneath themselves to perform hard 
manual labor in connection with their higher duties." 

The loving wife and mother was busy with her brood 
and was also active in the cliurch. The com.numion service, 
still used, was her gift. The pewter tankards are inscribed 
^' Ruth Avery to Truro c^^, 1721 " ; each of the six solid silver 
cups bears the inscription, "This belongs to y^ Church in 
Truro, 1730." 

Vor twenty-two years John and Ruth Avei-y loved each 



Walter Titus Avery. 9 

other and labored toj!;cther, then in 1732 the dark day of 
separation came while she was yet in her prime. Twenty- 
two years after, on April 23, 1754, John Avery died, having 
preached forty-four years in Truro. Rev. James Freeman 
wrote of him in 179(3, "As a minister he was greatly beloved 
and admired by his ]icople, being a good and useful preacher, 
of an exemplary life and conversation. As physician he 
was no less esteemed. He always manifested great tender- 
ness for tlie sick, and his people very .seriously felt their loss 
in his death." 

Tlie second son of .lohn and Ruth Avery was Ephraim, 
born April 22, 1713. \Vhen eighteen years old he graduated 
from Harvard, and in 1735 was ordained as the first minis er 
of Brooklyn in Pomfret, Conn., his father, John of Trui'o, 
pjeaching the ordination sermon. The ordination dinner 
was served two miles away over Blackwell's Brook, which 
was still without a bridge, so that all the ministers and mes- 
sengers forded the stream on their way to the repast. 

Ephraim Avery mai-ried in 1738 Deborah Lothrop, daugh- 
ter of Samuel and Deborah (Crow) Lothrop, and nine chil- 
dren were born to them. 

In 1754 a malignant disease raged in Brooklyn with great 
violence. The minister seems to have been the only physi- 
cian in the region. He "day and night ministered to the 
sick and dying till he was prostrated and . . . fell a victim 
to the disease." Tsli-. Ebenezer Devotion, who preached the 
funeral sermon, said of him: 

"As to his natural endowments, he was calm, iK'acealjle, 
patient, open hearted, free of access, sociable, hospitable, 
cheerful but not vain, capable of unshaken fiiendsliip — not 
a Vt'it, but very judicious, not of the most ready and quick 
thought, but very penetrating, capable of viewing tiie rela- 
tion of things, com])aring tlicni nnd drawing just coiiclusions 
from them. In a word, tlie Author of Nature liad dealt 
out with a liberal hand to him, luunanity and good sense. 
As to his ac(iuiremonts in learning: he was esteemed . . . 
a good scholar, a good Divine, and no small proficient in 
several of the liJDeral sciences." 

It is interesting to note in passing that the widow of 



10 1I7///(T Tituii Avert] . 

E}:>hraim Avery married for her third husband iVm. Israel 
Putnam of Revokitionary fame, so that by marriage General 
Putnam was the great-grandfather of Walter T. Avery. 
Mrs. Deborah Putnam accompanied hor husband in most 
of his campaigns until her death in 1777. 

John, the eldest child of Epliraini and Deborali Avery, and 
the grandfather of Vv'albn-, tlie subject of this paper, was 
born in Brooklyn, July 14, 1730. He graduated from Yale 
in 1701, with the hope of becoming a minister, but his liealth 
failing, he turned to the profession of teaching. Tie taught 
in Rye, N. Y., and in Huntington, P. P He married, 
June 26, 1769, Ruth Smith, daughter of Jehiel and Kesia 
(Wood) Smith. They had three children, Init their .married 
life was all too brief, for on August 20, 177V), Jolm Avery died 
followed six months later ])y his wife, Ruth. Their little 
son, John, the father of Walter, was thus left an orj)lian 
when two years old. This child was brought up by his aunt, 
Mrs. Kesia (Smith) Titus, the wife of Joseph Titus of New 
York. We find nothing relating to his boyhood. In l81.'-5 
he married Amelia Titus, daughter of Israel and Temperance 
(Norton) Titus of Huntington, P. I. Their only child was 
Walter Titus Avery. John Avery became a New York 
merchant, in partnership with his brother-in-law, Walter 
Titus, in the firm of "Titus and Avery." In 1816 the firm 
was "Titus, Avery, and Weeks." I judge that Mr. Avery 
was a successful merchant, as he retii-ed from business at 
the age of forty-seven. On April 14, 1857, lie died when 
eighty years old, and his widov/ on January 6, 18()3, in the 
eighty-ninth year of her age. Both breathed their last in the 
home of their adopted daughter at Old Mill, Bi'idg(^i)ort, 
Conn. 

I have now given, as I proposed, some of the hereditary 
influences of the life of Walter Titus Aveiy. Born in the 
early pare of the nineteenth century, on January 18, 1814, he 
was bred amid the stirring but distracting scenes of a great 
city. At eighteen he graduated from Cohimina College, 
having chosen a scientific rather than a professional career. 
As civil engineer, he Ix^jan work in 1836 on tJie location of 
the Croton Aoueduct, and in 1817 he was Assistant Engineer 



Waller Til us A very. 11 

in the survey, location, and conipk-tion of the iii)per part of 
the New York division of t!ie Hudson Raih'oad In 1850 lie 
went to San Francisco, Cah, and the next j^ear to Stockton, 
remaining there five yeai's, selling supplies to the miners un- 
der the firm of "Avery and Ih^vlett." In 1S5G he returned to 
New York and formed a partnership with an old friend as Im- 
porters and Commission Merchants under the firm of *'H, E. 
Blossom & Co."; at the death of Mr. Blossom, in 1SG3, he 
continued the business with a former clerk under the name 
of "Avery and Lockwood" until 18S5. 

It was at this time that the President of this Association, 
while in New York, had the pleasure of calling: upon Mr. 
Avery. 

About 18S5 Mr. Avery retired from business. He never 
married. He spent his winters in New York and his summers 
at Moriches, a quiet village just out of the city. 

Tliese facts concerning Mr. Avery's career are given by 
the compilers of " The Avery Family." Mr. xVvery would not 
allow his portrait to be used, nor more than a single page 
to be devoted to his life. But actions speak louder than 
words, and scattered through all the book are records of 
his truly beautiful and worthy deeds. 

Whether Mr. Avery, when he came to Deerfield in 1871, 
knew of the connection between this town and his remote 
ancestors, we cannot learn. He could not have heard from 
Ills grandfather the true stories of Indian life which doubt- 
l(>ss tliis grandfather hcai'd from tlie lips of John of Truro. 
Neither could the father of Walter have heard them from 
his father or grandfather, because they were both dead when 
he was two 3'eai's old. The chain of tradition was so broken 
that probal)ly Walter did not even know that John of Truro 
ever preached in Deerfield, since this fact is not recorded in 
' ' The Avery Family." But even if Mr. Avery aid not possess 
this knov/ledg(?, would not a man in whose veins flowed tlie 
blood of William, the emigrant, of Richard Warren, the 
Pilgrim, and of John, the preacher, be drawn to this historic 
town as surel}' as the needle is drawn by an irresistible force 
toward the magnet! 

Certain it is that at some time Mr. Avery ])ecame deeply 



APR r 1912 

12 Waller Til an Airry. 

interested in llie history and genealogy of his family. He 
tfpent time and mone}' in searching for information "not only 
in all i)arts of this country but in England as well." "His 
valuable books of records " which he had "taken such infinite 
pains to gather" he placed at the disposal of the compilers of 
" The Avery Family in America," pubhshed in 1893. Many 
of the facts here given are the results of his investigations. 
Mr. Avery showed tliat he placed a true value on old family 
papers, by presenting the Dedham Historical Society the 
original deed of gift of land by Rev. John Avery of Truro, to 
Epliraim his son. It bears tlie minister's signature, and i^ 
the only specimen of his handwriting known to exist. 

Rich, in his " History of Truro," tells us that "Mr. Walter 
T. Avery of New York has reconsecrated the g.aves of his 
ancestors by enclosing the lot with granite posts and heavy 
iron rails." These were the graves of John Avery of Truro 
and his wife Ruth. These and similar acts prove that Mr. 
Avery's interests reached out beyond the confines of his city 
home, that he had a just appreciation of the past, and a 
rare sense of gratitude to those who, very largely, had made 
him what he was. In his death, which occurred June 10, 
1904, he emphasized his living faith by legacies to several 
historical societies whose object it is to bring into harmo- 
nious and permanent relations the past and the present, that, 
thereb}', the future may be worthy of the founders of New 
England. 




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