Journal Letters: Introduction and Notes
Journal Letters: Chronological Inventory
Journal Leters: Index to Journalists
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Mount Holyoke Seminary,
SOUTH HADLEY, MASS., June 11, 1877.DEAR FRIENDS: -
Perhaps we cannot do better than begin where we left off, some six months ago.
One of the next items in our note-book mentions the arrival of Professor Thompson, on Monday, January 29th, to give chemical lectures. It had not been possible for him to come as early as usual this year, nor could he give us as much time; but a good deal was accomplished before February 10th, when the lectures closed. Six young ladies took private instruction, working in the laboratory under the professor's eye. This has been done to some extent for several years; but with the greatly increased facilities of our new laboratory, chemical work grows more and more fascinating. We hope to have arrangements for a larger number to work next year.
During the winter and spring we were daily receiving many deeply interesting letters from members of the Memorandum Society, whose quintennial catalogue is to be published this year. If the long-absent writers could have seen with what tender interest and sympathy their letters have been read, how gladly their words of affection for the Seminary have been received, how much they have thus cheered and encouraged their sisters who are laboring here, they would feel more than paid for the effort of writing. You will be glad to hear that Mrs. Pease is preparing the catalogue; there is no one else so well acquainted with the history of individual members during the first thirty years. She does the work chiefly at home, making occasional visits to confer with Miss Ward, Mrs. Stoddard, and others. Some changes are to be made in the arrangement of the catalogue which will render it much more convenient for reference, and in every respect more complete.
It was during the latter part of our winter term that we became aware of the rapidly declining health of our dear Deacon Porter. When he was here in November, at the dedication of Williston Hall, he had seemed better than sometimes before. He had occasionally written to us during the winter, though our letters were oftener answered by Mrs. Porter. After New Year's he seldom left the house; and the heart-disease, from which he had long suffered, seemed gradually to advance. His last letter to Miss Ward was dated February 7th. After speaking of the religous state of the school, in regard to which we had informed him in a previous letter, and of the need of persevering in prayer, he referred to his own state of health, saying that he had been more ill since the first of January than for a long time before. He added, "I have entire confidence that my great Physician will understand my case and bring me out all right." This was read to us at the teachers' prayer meeting on the next Saturday evening. We listened with foreboding hearts, but we did not look for his departure so soon.
On Friday, February i6, there came a letter from Mrs. Porter saying that he was worse, and desiring Mrs. Foster to come to them. Mrs. Foster accordingly, went to Monson the next day. Deacon Porter was not then wholly confined to his
chamber, though feeble and suffering. He could seldom rest in bed, on account of the difficulty of breathing, and was obliged to pass most of the time in his reclining chair, by night as well as by day. On Thursday, February 22d, Mr. Williston, who succeeded him as treasurer of the Seminary a few years since, and to whom he was warmly attached, paid him an unexpected visit. On hearing that Mr. Williston had come, he immediately went down to welcome his guest; but the effort exhausted him so much that he consented to return very soon to his chamber. That was the last time he went down stairs. He was able to converse for some time, with intervals of rest, and seemed greatly to enjoy the visit.
The next Sabbath morning, when he led in prayer at family worship - which for some days he had only been able to do occasionally - it was noticed how fervently he prayed for the meetings in progress at Boston, the church and community in Monson, and the Seminary. At evening devotions lie again I)rayed, but seemed too feeble for the exertion. It was the last time. At four o'clock the next morning, when after a suffering night he had just been helped into bed, he became speechless, and it proved that there was a paralysis of the left side.
On account of the difficulty of breathing, he was very soon replaced in his reclining chair, which he never left again, lying motionless and apparently unconscious most of the time. Our beloved and revered friend, though still in the body, was seemingly beyond intercourse with earth. But on Tuesday afternoon, those about him perceived that, though he still lay with closed eyes, he was moving the forefinger of his right hand as if writing. A pencil was placed in his hand, and a sheet of paper underneath. Yes, he was trying to write; the faithful heart that had loved the Seminary with a father's love for forty years, had prompted a farewell word, from Jordan's very brink. The faltering hand, which the eye could no longer guide, traced the words, "Messages of love to all Seminary daughters." Repeating the' effort, as if fearing that he might not make himself fully understood, he wrote, "Love [to] all pupils of Seminary; " and again, "all at Seminary." Most of the writing could be readily made out, and could even be recognized as his own well known hand. Mrs. Foster read it aloud, not without tears; he perceived that his meaning was understood, and made a sign that he had done. That precious sheet with the words penciled by his dear hand lies before me now; it will be treasured among the most sacred mementos which the Institution posesses of its departed friends. He was still alive when it reached us; perhaps you can imagine how indescribably touching was the sight of those last tender words. Oh, if we could only have sent back our grateful response,- if some loving message from the Seminary daughters who owe him so much might have overtaken the departing soul But he was beyond our farewells. Once, indeed, he again wrote a few words, conveying to Mrs. Porter, brokenly, that he was aware of his condition, and was perfectly at peace. So the days passed, one after another, with no marked change, until the morning of the Sabbath, March 4th, when the gates were opened, and he entered into the heavenly city, to go no more out forever.
Our vacation had commenced three days before, but Miss Ward and Miss Shattuck had remained, unwilling to be at a distance while our friend's departure was at hand. The funeral took place on Thursday, March 8th. There were present from the Seminary Miss Ward, Miss Shattuck, Miss Edwards, Mrs. Foster, and Mr. Lawrence; and four of the trustees, including Dr. Tyler, Dr. Hitchcock, Mr. Williston, and Mr. Bridgman. Rev. Mr. Sumner, the pastor, preached from the text,
Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord." After describing the character of the blessed dead, he gave a sketch of Deacon Porter's life, including some account of his early youth, education, business career, conversion, religious activity, his benefactions, his relations to the Monson church and community, to Amherst College, and to Mount Holyoke Seminary. The discourse will probably be published.
Mrs. Porter, though deeply afflicted, was sustained through the last sad scenes and has since been able to attend to the needful arrangements for her remaining years. As she has no family of her own, and her health is delicate, she boards, for the present, with the people who occupy the first floor of her house. She reserves for her own use the second floor, and can still receive her friends as formerly. Since this letter was commenced, she has visited us, on her way to Vermont; and we hope to see her often, as she seems to find it a comfort to be with her Seminary daughters, and we love to have her here.
Our spring term, which opened March i6th, brought us together, as usual, through chilly winds, snow and' mud, by way of Holyoke. Next year we are proposing to have a new arrangement, bringing our winter vacation at Christmas, and the other in April. We shall thus escape March journeyings, and hope to secure other desirable ends. Of course the spring term will be very short, including only one series of studies, and two weeks for reviews and examinations; as we must have our Anniversary about the third Thursday in June. This will be only an experiment, but it is one that we have for some time wished to try.
On the State Fast-day we had an excellent sermon on personal responsibility, from Rev. Mr. Cone, of Springfield. All the prayer-meetings during the day were very encouraging, especially that held during the hour before dinner, to which were invited those, and only those, who desired to attain a fuller personal consecration to Christ. The lecture-room was crowded; a great many short voluntary prayers were offered, and they seemed heart-felt. In the afternoon we attended service at church. Two of our pupils found hope in Christ that day, one of them being an old scholar. The religious state of the family has on the whole been encouraging all this term. There have been some eight or ten instances of hopeful conversion; and there are now in school only eleven without hope. Give thanks with us, dear friends, for what God has wrought, and pray still for those who are left.
On Saturday, April '5th, Miss Blanchard sailed for Europe, in company with Miss Evans, the principal of the Seminary at Painesville, Ohio. Miss Evans had a long and severe illness last fall, which has left her too feeble to resume her usual duties at present, and it seemed best that Miss Blanchard should accompany her abroad. We ought to have mentioned that Miss Blanchard had recently been deeply bereaved by the death of her father, after a painful illness, during several weeks of which she was with him. It was not until after the term opened that this plan was proposed, and our friends found themselves actually on the way, almost before they or we had fully taken in the idea that they were going. The change seems already to have done Miss Evans not a little good.
In April, we had again the great pleasure of hearing a few lectures from Rev. Joseph Cook. He is so fully occupied that his stay with us was brief. One evening was devoted to answering the numerous questions presented by the young ladies, at his own request. Imagine us all listening for two hours and a half without thinking the time long! The clearness and force with which he presents the great problems
of religion and science are wonderful. Everybody sits absorbed, even those who are not given to thoughtful pondering of grave themes. We find his lectures in Boston, as given in the papers, very useful for reference in connection with the study of Natural Theology and of Evidences. We are glad that Mr. Cook is soon to publish them in a permanent form.
Among other pleasant little incidents of this term, we must not omit the meeting of the Ladies' Benevolent Society here, April i8th; the delightful though too brief musical entertainment on the evening of May 8th; the visit from Mrs. Bliss, wife of our former pastor; and the lectures on Art, by Prof. Goodyear, of Cooper Institute. The first lecture was given May 10th, the subject being Cathedral Architecture; the second was June 1st, upon Greek Statuary. Both were finely illustrated, and we found them extremely interesting and valuable; they will serve as something of an introduction to our future studies of the history of Art.
We are enjoying a visit of a few weeks from Miss Theresa Campbell, who graduated in 1869, and has since been a missionary teacher in Alexandria, Egypt. Between the interesting things she has told us of that far country, and the curious gifts she has brought thence, Egypt begins to seem almost a familiar place. We think of Alexandria and the "mixed multitude" dwelling there, of the Nile and Cairo, of the Pyramids and the Sphinx, with something like a neighborly regard. The world is growing smaller year by year; Egypt is not far off to us now, nor Turkey, nor China; and Cape Colony is scarcely out of sight, even though summer does have a way of coming in December there. Our Holyoke colony is becoming so firmly established, and spreading so rapidly at the Cape, that South Africa seems like a sort of adopted country. More teachers are still wanted there, and several expect to go in August. We will confide to you that among these is Miss Clary, who settled the matter in her own mind almost a year ago, but did not announce her intention until lately. On hearing this, perhaps you will fancy us presently emigrating thither in a body, but we do not propose to do that. The Seminary, like a banyan tree, spreads abroad its branches and takes root in many a foreign soil, while the mother trunk grows only the more stately and strong beside the same ,,river of water " where it was so wisely planted at first.
We will defer telling you of the recent delightful visit of Rev. Andrew Murray and Rev. Charles Murray, of Cape Colony, as they are to make a longer one next week, and it is time our letter had gone to the printer. Anniversary is close upon us, as you see; we will endeavor to send a newspaper report of the week, with the journal, to our friends abroad. Will each of our missionary friends to whom a copy of the journal goes kindly see that all the Holyoke daughters in her vicinity share in the reading of it, as we cannot usually send more than one to the same station. We thank you all for your letters received from time to time, and wish we might have more, During the year we have heard from Mrs. Bridgman and Mrs. Pixley of the Zulu mission, from many of the Cape Colony teachers, from Mrs. Morrow, of Burmah, (lately our well-beloved physician), from Miss Washburn, of Turkey, Mrs. Whitney, of Micronesia, and some others whose names are not at this moment recalled. Doubtless you all think many letters to your Alma Mater which you never find time to write, and we in turn do the same.
With much love,
MARY O. NUTTING.
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