Stearns (1879) [1/8]



Aug. 27, 1879.



Jonathan F. Stearns, D.D., [*2]

Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, Newark, N.J.


A Sketch of the Celebration.



Alfred Mudge & Son, Printers,

34 School Street.


[ p 2 ]

[ blank page ]

[ p 3 ]

Bedford, Mass., Sept. 8, 1879.

Rev. Jonathan F. Stearns, D.D.:

Dear Sir, — At a recent meeting of the Committee of Arrangements for the late Sesqui-Centennial Celebration, by a unanimous vote the sincere and hearty thanks of the committee were extended to you for preparing and delivering the eminently acceptable and instructive address upon the history of Bedford. It was also voted to request of you a copy of the same for publication. Trusting you may be able to accede to this request,

I remain sincerely yours,

Geo. E. Lovejoy,


Bedford, Sept. 10, 1879.

Rev. Geo. E. Lovejoy:

My Dear Brother, — I cheerfully comply with your request by placing a copy of my address at your disposal. Some matter which was omitted in the delivery for want of time I have taken the liberty to include. In so doing, let me acknowledge my indebtedness to those who have kindly aided me in the collection of materials, and particularly to my brother, Mr. Josiah A. Stearns, to whose manuscript “History of Bedford” I have had free access. [*3] I hope it will, at no distant day, be completed and given to the public in a permanent form. [*4]

With the highest respect and esteem,

Yours truly,

J. F. Stearns

[ p 4 ]

[ blank page ]

[ p 5 ]


How sublimely impressive and majestic is the march of Time! Pulse by pulse beat the seconds and the minutes and the hours. “Tramp, tramp, tramp!” [^1] like a file of soldiers marching under your windows early in the morning, when you are half asleep, go the days and the weeks and the months. The annual festivals — Christmas, New Year, Fourth of July — are the mile-stones that mark the progress of the years, and on, on, on, pass the generations and the centuries and the ages, and the aeons upon aeons, to eternity! We stand our little day on “this bank and shoal of time,” [*5] and behind us are the ages unnumbered and before us a shoreless Forever! And here, just here, we have our work to do, our destiny to achieve.

We Bedford boys and girls have come home here to celebrate our good old mother Bedford’s diamond wedding-day. [*6] We reckon here by fifties, as you see. We cannot afford to notice twenty-fives.

Things have changed, it is true, from what they once were. The good old primitive days when Uncle Jim, the old bachelor, went a-courting to Aunt Molly Pollard, just once a year, on New-Year’s day, and sat with her into the little hours of the night, and then at length was married [*7] — ”the Hassel he was!” [*8] — and lived with her up there on the hill, at the end of the long, grassy lane, [*9] till they were both over fourscore, [*10] were mostly matters of tradition when the oldest

[ p 6 ]

of us were young. There have been changes, too, in the face of nature. The brook that used to roar and dash so grandly after a long rain or a copious thunder-shower, up near the north school-house, [*11] and in which we boys used to find so much sport, damming it up with stones and grass-sods and then letting it go, till we were wet half up to the neck, and had to go straight to our seats when we came in, and dry up as best we could, does not seem to be just what it used to be. And the tall, slender trunk of the old elm, which, till lately, stood stooping over on the very edge of the bank, with half its roots bare, just as it stood, to my certain knowledge, more than sixty years ago, — when the great hurricane of 1815, which blew off chimneys, overturned sheds and barns, and rooted up whole orchards in all this region, to the wonder of us all, did not start it, [*12] — is gone at length, quite decayed, as it proved, at the heart, but green to the last on the top, heavenward. Yet there are still the same green meadows! I wonder if the boys and girls get as good sweet flagroot, — calamus, they call it, I believe, now, — and in the winter coast down the long icy slope with as merry yells, as they used to?

Yes, times have changed, no doubt. In many respects, they have changed much for the better. As I walk through this beautiful street, [*13] I see tokens of a thrift and taste which conserves all that is good in the old, while it superinduces the new. [*14] And the old leafy by-paths, kept in good order, though scarcely discoverable by a stranger, still carry you all round from corner to corner of the town plot, through much of the most enjoyable scenery. And here are the same hills, and the same mill streams, and the same Concord River, winding: along the border, and the birds sing and look just as they used to, the robins and the bluebirds, the bobolinks and the orioles, the “fire-hang-birds,” we used to call them; and old Bedford is old Bedford still, and I am ready to shout,

[ p 7 ]

as we all intend to do to-day, with a right good-will, “Old Bedford forever!” [^2]



  1. “Tramp, tramp, tramp!”
    ∨ Tramp, tramp, tramp!
  2. Old Bedford forever!
    Old Bedford forever!



  1. “Sesqui-Centennial” (i.e., “Sesquicentennial”): 150th Anniversary
  2. “Jonathan F. Stearns”: b. 1808 – d. 1889 (BHB) II: p 37
  3. “Josiah A. Stearns”: b. 1812 – d. 1883 (BHB) II: pp 37-38
  4. cf. Josiah A. Stearns’ “Bedford” (1880)
    in Drake’s History of Middlesex County: Vol I (pp 241-251)
  5. cf. Shakespeare’s Macbeth (Act I: Scene 7)
  6. “diamond wedding-day”: 75th anniversary
    (But note Stearns’ joke regarding his math!)
  7. James Lane married Molly Pollard in 1805. (BHB) II: p 21
  8. “Hassel”: [ presumably ] hassle
  9. James and Molly lived on the Rodman estate. (BHB) p 103
    Their home still stands at 97 North Road. (HPN) p 260
  10. “fourscore”: 80 (years old)
  11. “the north school-house”: the second North school
    Stood “across [the road] to the west and slightly north of [the Job Lane House]”, which still stands at 295 North Road. No longer extant. (HPN) p 259
  12. “start”: dislodge
  13. “this beautiful street”: now The Great Road
  14. “superinduces”: also introduces

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