« AnteriorContinuar »
of Worcester, and for the last few years he was retained throughout the state to a degree quite unusual in recent times.
As a lawyer he ranked with the best in the state, was learned, able and eloquent, excelling particularly in clearness and force of expression. Several opportunities for judicial service were open to him, but he preferred home life and the practice of his chosen profession. Although cheerfully doing his share of political work he had little liking for strictly political office, but was for twelve years city solicitor, was once presidential elector, and served in the legislature as well as in the school board, and was one of the trustees of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute and also of Clark University, and occupied many positions of trust in the community.
He delivered numerous local addresses, including one on the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the settlement of his native town, and he was to have delivered an address at the centennial in honor of Daniel Webster, at Dartmouth College, which came on September 24th, 1901, just after his death. This was to have been accompanied by the degree of LL.D., the announcement of which came too late for him to see. He was a close student of the classics, a lover of the best English authors, especially Shakespeare, and adorned his arguments with frequent quotations from the world of literature, including Persian. He also studied astronomy, calling to his aid a fine telescope, which he had mounted at his house.
Full notices of him may be found in the history of Worcester County, published by Lewis & Co., volume 1, page 60; the Worcester Magazine of March, 1902, and in the New England Historical and Genealogical Register for April, 1903.
Charles Kendall Adams was born in Vermont, January 24, 1835, in Derby, a township on the eastern shore of Lake Memphremagog, bounded on the north by Canada, and hence known as Derby line.
The parents of Charles Kendall were Charles and Susan Maria (Shedd) Adams. The father, born at New Ipswich, on the southern line of New Hampshire, removed in 1832 not long before the birth of his only son, to the north line
of Vermont. He came to Derby as a hatter and men of his trade were early settlers on every backwoods fringe. The reason was that furs, so needful in hat-making, not only for beavers but for other varieties, were most within reach of artisans who lived nearest hunters, whether white or Indian. Before his boy had entered his teens Mr. Adams had become owner of a farm some two miles west of the village, and removing to a new home turned farmer.
His new possessions lay along a lakelet a mile broad and three long. The story-and-a-half house stood between a maple grove and a rocky hill. Facing eastward it had in view the lake, the town centre and high mountains beyond. As the climate was too cold for wheat and small grains, the chief industry was stock-raising, and principally sheep. Thus it is not unlikely that Charles, like the son of Jesse, grew up a shepherd boy, with enchanting outlooks and in an isolation which shielded his morals as savingly as did his father's deaconship. It must have fostered originality more than could as much of school routine. There was no danger that "a lion would come and take a lamb out of his flock,” but bears were not yet extinct in the highlands close by.
In 1855 Charles removed with his parents to Iowa. His father had purchased a farm in Denmark, a rural town which to this day remains without a railroad station, and is fifteen miles south of Burlington. Father and son were co-workers in the toil of tillage. The son naturally fell in love with a neighbor's daughter bearing his mother's name, Shedd, and it may be was of her kin.
Charles was a six-footer and black eyed, but his eyelids had a drowsy droop which he never outgrew, and his make-up was rather uncouth. Knowing sheep well he had not learned how to cast those sheep's eyes which bring responsive and loving sidelong looks. Failure here meant success elsewhere, for proof is positive that he was thus driven to the bittersweet medicine of Latin grammar in Denmark academy, then in the dew of its youth, though the oldest of its class west of the Mississippi, chartered years before Iowa had attained to statehood. The preceptor of this lass-lorn lover has just written me: “He did not give promise of the career he attained. His mind was neither quick nor brilliant. He was slow both in bodily and mental traits. The boys called him 'dig.' It is no
wonder that when head of Cornell he was nicknamed Farmer Adams. But from the first his insistent and persistent toughness, diligent and dogged, fitted him to become an investigator.”
In 1857 Adams was admitted a freshman at Ann Arbor. Already past the midway of his twenty-third year, he was the oldest candidate among scores, and as probably the most wretchedly fitted, he must have been turned away from the threshold but for the redeeming habit of dig already characteristic, and which was foreseen to be full of saving grace. Such foresight was justified when he was honored with a second degree two years sooner than most who had entered with him. It had been justified long before when he had stood the test of library work and of elementary teaching.
The greatest treasure, however, which the Iowa digger discovered in Michigan was Andrew D. White, who came to that university in the same year with Adams. The one was an unlicked cub and his years had been pent up in a dark den. The other, while no more than three years older, after graduating from Yale had served as an attaché in our legation at St. Petersburg, and had studied at several European universities, mainly to mark their methods with a most observant eye, and with a determination, in Bacon's phrase, to prick into the culture of his own country the choicest flowers of whatever he could garner up in the great elsewhere. Pity for Adams in the depth of destitution, beginning cultural endeavor at an age when his classmates were leaving it off, may have moved the professor to the first befriending of the freshman. Be this as it may, he had not long condescended before the feeling was borne in upon him that Adams would be invaluable, not only as follower but as fellow in heart and hand as to the educational crusade which had become the immediate jewel of his soul.
Largely therefore was the hand of White discernible in the election of Adams as assistant professor in 1863, within seven years of his turning his face from the farm. History was the department of White, and Adams took his suggestions as a cat laps milk who cares not how much she wets her feet. Indeed Adams's own first earnings of daily bread had been in a library that was strongest in history, in the first elements of which his own teaching also began. About 1867 Mr. White, who had become guide, philosopher and friend to Mr. Cornell in founding an institution which had no other aim than to incarnate the ideals of them both, and that so radically as was not possible in Michigan, was obliged to change his base. He was begged to name a successor, and his choice fell upon Adams as the man most after his own heart, and he stipulated on his behalf for a year abroad of studies preparatory. Accordingly, the professor elect lingered but never loitered in Paris, Berlin, Leipzig, Munich and Heidelberg. His studies centered on educational systems, preeminently German. For ten years his convictions had been growing that our home plans cried aloud for reforming altogether, and that evolution or revolution must be inaugurated in the highest departments, and would thence go down as a pervading and permeating leaven to the lowest rootlets.
One feature of German training which he admired was called the seminar-neither name nor thing known in his previous career. Originating in Leipzig, and there in linguistic specialties this innovation had expanded widely and variously, it gathered the élite--a tithe at most of a class--and tied them in a knot or wrestling-ring, where every member, thanks to the "attrition of like minds” force, perforce became a spontaneous co-worker in strenuous attainments undreamed of in the beaten paths of the other nine-tenths. On returning from Europe Professor Adams initiated, as he believed, the earliest American seminar, still however spelling the name with an additional syllable, while his virgin experiment was, of course, historical.
Known by its fruits, it outstretched widely and fast, till it was confessed worthy of all acceptation. It gave new meaning to the Hebrew locution which styles teachers and scholars wakers and answerers. As auxiliary to his special field of research, Mr. Adams wrote his “ Manual of Historic Literature,” which swelled to seven hundred pages without a superfluous line. It was dedicated to the partners in his pioneer seminar.
This dedication was not penned till 1882. Seven years before he had dedicated to Mr. White an octavo of more than five hundred pages, concerning “Democracy and Monarchy in France, from the inception of the revolution to the overthrow of the second empire,” treatises both of
which must remain an integral portion of our standard literature.
But while loving and serving above all others his own province, Professor Adams had been instant in season and out of it that the entire University should lengthen its cords and strengthen its stakes. Ere long, that head-centre left no corner of the commonwealth unthrilled by an electrifying shock. Admitting students without examination only from schools which would conform their courses to its bidding, it was master of a leverage which lifted every high school yet higher. Its own instructions began from a higher coign of vantage, so that village Miltons ran less risk of dying mute and inglorious.
But a university so broadening its curricula as to be worthy of its name by supplies for even the most modern demands, was an achievement undertaken in Michigan first among Western States, perhaps not later than in any State more eastern. While Eliot, president from 1869, bided his time waiting for a convenient season, seeds of several exotics sown in Ann Arbor had taken deep root and began to yield thirty-fold increase.
In creating colonial colleges the chief end in view was to equip colonial clergy. “School of the prophets” was an alternate name for Harvard. Broader needs were not yet felt, since pastors fed their flocks in much of law and medicine. “There is substantial evidence," writes a town chronicler regarding a typical instance, “that Rev. John Campbell during his ministry which began in 1720, was acting and advising physician to many of the families in Oxford, so that the profession proper had a limited patronage there till after his death in 1761" (Daniells's Oxford, p. 254). Nor was his threefold service (for he was also a legal light) unusual. When I was at Salt Lake in Brigham's day, in visiting the University I wondered its local habitation was so small. Then said a fellow wayfarer, “What need of more? Sick here are healed by miracle, preachers are taught by inspiration, and lawyers are outlawed as sternly as lepers.” Intensive rather than extensive was the culture of our primitive east. It was imitated, however; yes, copied every jot and tittle in the infant west, and not least in state universities onward from the mother of them all in Ohio.
Through the eighteenth century and half the next, higher