Page images
[ocr errors]

publicity which his peculiar position involved, and which some who did not know the man attributed to a love of notoriety, was an unavoidable, not an intentional, result of the course which he had to pursue, working out--for the most part, alone and unassisted—a scheme for the general good, and of which he necessarily became the sole advocate and representative.

From his zealous activity in introducing into schools the use of the illustrative apparatus which now bears his name, and from which it was supposed by some that he derived a large personal share of profit, pecuniary motives were sometimes attributed to the mainspring of his ceaseless exertions for the accomplishment of his public purposes. To those who knew him intimately, and who daily observed his stoical indifference alike to personal enjoyment and personal advantage, the imputation of such motives was an utter absurdity. But had he even levied a liberal contribution from the extensive sale of the various articles which were so generally adopted in consequence of his references to their use, it would have in no respect differed from any other usual, fair business transaction. To all considerations of personal advantage, however, he was only too indifferent. It was his part to pass through life with “clean hands and a pure heart," and self-denying devotion to the good of others. His brightest moments of enjoyment were those in which a child, confiding in his sympathy, would come up to him, holding up a wild-flower, and questioning him about its nature or its name; or when an intelligent teacher would manifest a warm interest in the interpretation of Nature, as a part of her own daily duties to her juvenile dependents.

Let one of these faithful guides of the young mind speak the experience of many such. The writer of this article quotes her words without her knowledge or permission, but with no violation, he trusts, of the privacy of an humble daily life of useful toil. The note from which the following is an extract was addressed to that indefatigable laborer in the service of education, the Rev. B. G. Northrup, state agent of the Massachusetts Board of Education. Referring to a lecture by that gentleman before a teachers' institute, the writer proceeds:"Permit me, a stranger, to express to you the surprise and pleasure with which I listened to the just and true tribute of respect paid by you to the memory of the beloved and lamented Holbrook. I think it will be pleasant to you to learn that bis labors were not wholly lost. You expressed a fear that there were none now who carried out his plan of object teaching.' I know of one who, through a long experience in teaching, has always devoted some part of every day to this and similar exercises, and who was first taught it by Mr. Holbrook himself, more than thirty years ago, when a little girl in the public school in Greenfield, Mass., a school which Mr. H. visited and instructed, and imbued with his own love of Nature in all its forms—plants, minerals, and shells; stars, storms, and sunshine.

“I doubt not there are many others from that same town-school-which, in due time, sent out a score of teachers—who have also been practicing on those principles and that manner of teaching. We have all taught in the shade:' the great world has never heard of us. But the children who love us, and who love our 'lessons in thinking,' or lessons on objects'-as we sometimes call them—will never forget to observe, and notice, and comparc, or forget the difference between eyes and no cyes.' We bave governed our schools by love and confidence rather than by fear, and all, (as far as I have learned,) have had great success in gaining the affection and esteem of our pupils. I have had over a

thousand different scholars under my care; and I have reason to think there are few that do not look back with interest and pleasure on the days spent in my school.

“We all were aided in our youthful efforts in teaching by a meeting of the teachers' institute, held, I believe, in 1851, at Greenfield, Mass., and conducted, (if my memory serves me riglıt,) by the Hon. Horace Mann, assisted by Mr. Holbrook. At that meeting, lessons in astronomy, arithmetic, and geometry were explained and illustrated, and a new method of teaching the alphabet explained by Mr. Mann, which I have always used, and which I consider superior to any I know of. The lessons in geometry and mathematical geography I have always been obliged to teach by rough models, of our own manufacture."

To these recollections and appreciative estimate of the subject of this memoir, we append an eloquent tribute to his educational services and personal character by Hon. Samuel S. Randall, superintendent of schools for the city of New York.

As early as 1826, Mr. Holbrook laid in Massachusetts the foundations of that system of lyceums and literary and scientific associations which has since pervaded our land, and produced a rich harvest of knowledge; and at about the same period gave the first impulse to that great legislative movement, by which state geological and mineralogical surveys were instituted, and the immense physical resources of our national borders explored and illustrated. • These important results originated in the instructions gratuitously communicated by him to classes of children whom it was his custom, during his whole life, to attract around him by his interesting, simple, and familiar expositions of natural history. Collecting specimens of the various minerals, metals, and fossils of every neighborhood he visited, and rendering himself acquainted with its topography and physical resources, he taught his delighted pupils the elementary principles of science, stimulated them to investigate nature for themselves, to make collections of all the varieties of rocks and mineralogical specimens which the region afforded, to execute simple maps and drawings of the towns and counties of which they were residents, and of such other objects as were most familiar, and to institute a system of exchanges with the children of other neighborhoods, by means of which a community of interest and of exertion might be secured and perpetuated.

These specimens and drawings soon attracted the attention of parents and others interested in scientific pursuits; they were produced for exhibition at school examinations and public gatherings, and found their way to legislative committees, who failed not to perceive their eminent utility, and their ready adaptation to practical purposes. Associations for scientific improvement were at once formed among the young, and organized, under the supervision and auspices of this indefatigable philanthropist, into lyceums and institutes. Members of the legislature were furnished with county and state maps, the product of young hands and the offering of young hearts; and the project was forthwith conceived of a general and accurate survey of the state, with a view to the de. velopment of its resources and an exposition of its capabilities. The example of Massachusetts, in this respect, was speedily followed by the adoption of a similar resolution in our own and other states, and the results of these wise measures are now before us in a series of volumes, the product of the most eminent and distinguished scientific authors of our age and country.

The system of scientific exchanges now so prevalent, and one department of which has received so great a share of legislative encouragement and regard, followed in the train of these great movements; and their philanthropic origin. ator, careless of fame, and content with the consciousness of having promoted the true and lasting welfare of the rising generation, interposing no claims, and putting forward no pretensions, to recognition or reward, left the early and active scene of his labors only to renew them elsewhere. Having transferred himself to the city of New York, he unfolded his plan of operations to a few select friends, capable of appreciating his views, and prepared to co-operate with him in their realization. Here he met with much encouragement and practical assistance, and here, year after year, were gathered, in one of the rooms of the ball of the Board of Education, the noblest and finest specimens of science and of art which the children of the public schools, and such others as could be induced to interest themselves in these attractive operations, could produce. From this rich depository, were, from time to time, forwarded to every section of the Union choice selections, with the view of elicting exchanges; and here were busily and profitably engaged hundreds of active young hands and minds, whose ener. gies might, but for this judicious employment, have been diverted to vice and crime.

Having thus laid the foundation for extensive usefulness in his peculiar field of operations here, Mr. Holbrook turned his attention to the South; there, as . here, he surrounded himself daily with eager and attentive young listeners—ex. citing their curiosity and stimulating their exertions by displaying the beautiful and attractive tokens of regard forwarded by their young friends in New York, and pointing out to them the mode by which these most acceptable tokens and remembrances might be reciprocated. Then, after having penetrated the rural districts of Virginia, diffusing light and knowledge wherever he went, and meeting with the kindest and most generous appreciation of his labors and his motives, he succeeded in enlisting the interest and sympathies of the most intelligent and influential men of that “Ancient Dominion” and its adjacent borders; and, repairing to the seat of government, he at once secured the co-operation and countenance of the occupants of the various executive and legislative departments, of the representatives of foreign courts, and of the municipal authorities of the city. Indefatigable in his desire to advance his favorite system, and disregarding the numerous indications of approaching age and failing health, he was induced, during the summer of 1854, to visit the city of Lynchburg, in Vir. ginia; where, in one of his geological excursions, unaccompanied by any of his friends or pupils, he accidentally lost his footing on a steep cliff, overhanging a deep stream of water, into which he was precipitated, and where his lifeless remains were some days afterward discovered.

There, in a secluded corner of the churchyard, followed to his long home by a train of weeping children and pupils—far from the friends and associates who knew and loved him longest and best, reposes all that was mortal of one of the kindest, noblest, purest, and most disinterested and devoted friends of humanity! Long, long after the fleeting and transitory triumph of the politician and the warrior, and the busy schemes of the proud, the vain, and the wealthy, shall have faded into insignificance and oblivion and been forgotten, will his work of humble and unpretending usefulness, his labors for the benefit and advancement of the young, remain an imperishable monument of his untiring philanthropy and ever-active beneficence. How seldom does the world recognize its truest

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

benefactors! how little do mankind appreciate the immortal few among them, but not of them, who, amid the pressure of straitened circumstances; surrounded by innumerable embarrassments and obstacles; borne down by pain, by illness, and physical suffering; and oppressed by mental anxiety and harassing cares; “press right onward, bating not one jot of heart or hope,” in the path of duty; diffusing around them, on every hand, the elements of knowledge, of wisdom, and of happiness; “sowing by the side of all waters ” those precious and invaluable germs of future excellence, destined for perennial growth and progress; seeking no other recognition than that of kindred spirits, and asking and receiving no other reward than the consciousness of a life well spent!

Such was Josian HOLBROOK. In the congenial soil of his noble nature, every Christian virtue took deep root, and yielded an ample and luxuriant harvest. With no personal aspirations, no desite for fame, no ambition for individual advancement, and no wish for wealth, he sought only the welfare and happiness of others, and was content to know that these were secured, to pass on his unassuming way. A welcome inmate in every social and domestic circle, the idol of the young, the dignified companion and counselor of mature age, the warmhearted friend, and the devout and earnest Christian, his memory will long be cherished and revered by those who knew his worth, and enjoyed his confidence and regard. His venerable and beloved form has forever passed from among us; but we know that his emancipated spirit has winged its flight to those bliss. ful regions where "the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest.

“Green be the turf above thee,

Friend of my better days;
None knew thee but to love thee,

None named thee but to praise!”

[ocr errors]


AGRICULTURAL SEMINARY AT DERBY.—A former pupil of the Seminary at Derby has furnished us with the following account of its plan of operations for the first half-year.

“You ask me what I remember about the Academy of Messrs. Josiah Holbrook & Truman Coe. It was established in the town of Derby, in this State, in the spring of the year 1824, and was, I believe, discontinued after one or two years. The Prospectus published in the newspapers of that day gives an outline of the course of study and the plan of operations. It is substantially as follows:

“The exercises designed are the study of the Latin, Greek, French, and English languages, Rhetoric, Elocution, Geography, and History :—the Mathematics, as Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, Plano 'and Spherical Trigonometry, Mensuiration, and Fluxions, Natural Philosophy in its various branches :— Astronomy, Chemistry, Mineralogy, Botany, and Zoölogy. No efforts will be spared to render these sciences practical, and fitted to common life. With that view, particular attention will be given to Composition, Declamation with extempore debates, the uses of the higher branches of Mathematics in common business, Practical Surveying, the application of Natural Philosophy to various kinds of machinery, agricultural instruments, &c.,-testing the principles of chemical science in mixing and preparing soils, forming manures, making cider, beer, spirit, and various other articles of agriculture and domestic economy, agricultural, geological, and botanical excursions into various parts of the country, examining and analyzing soils, and practical agriculture.”

“One prominent object of the school is to qualify teachers. The most approved methods of instruction will be introduced, and lectures will be given on most of the Physical Sciences, attended with demonstrations and illustrations sufficiently plain and familiar to admit of their being introduced into common education. Courses on Natural Philosophy, Chemistry, Mineralogy, and Botany, will commence at the opening of the Seminary. Ladies will be admitted to the lectures, and there will be a department connected with the institution, where females can pursue any branch of Education they may wish.?”

** The number of scholars of both sexes, during the summer of 1824, was perhaps 50 or 60; among whom were five boys from New Haven, about as many from New York, and some from other places, near and remote. The school was certainly an attractive and pleasant one, and those who were so disposed made good progress in useful learning. Several of the boys were intrusted with surveying and leveling instruments, and used them frequently and successfully. Mr. Coe gave special attention to the mathematical studies, and Mr. Holbrook gave lectures and instruction in natural history and allied subjects. The boys rambled extensively over the hills of that region, did some work in hocing corn and potatoes and in making hay, and once made a pedestrian excursion for minerals, to Lane's mine in Monroe."

“The working of the school was harmonious,--a spirit of study generally provailed among the pupils, and the supply of out-door exercise and sports was ample."

« PreviousContinue »