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ALLEN COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRABY
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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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 '^^^
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
"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
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,
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.
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
^ &■ \"^ I '^