Part 3 out of 4
"All right," replied the questioner. "Whom shall we name?"
"Whomever you please," rejoined Scott. "I have no candidate; but no one
can tell me what I must or must not do."
Substitution followed at once.
Later Mr. Scott played the star part in the most interesting political
struggle I ever knew. A Democratic victory placed in the
superintendent's office a man whose Christian name was appropriately
Andrew Jackson. He had the naming of his secretary, who was ex-officio
clerk of the board, which confirmed the appointment. One George Beanston
had grown to manhood in the office and filled it most satisfactorily.
The superintendent nominated a man with no experience, whom I shall call
Wells, for the reason that it was not his name. Mr. Scott, a Democratic
member, and I were asked to report on the nomination. The superintendent
and the committee discussed the matter at a pleasant dinner at the
Pacific-Union Club, given by Chairman Scott. At its conclusion the
majority conceded that usage and courtesy entitled the superintendent to
the appointment. Feeling that civil service and the interest of the
school department were opposed to removal from position for mere
political differences, I demurred and brought in a minority report.
There were twelve members, and when the vote to concur in the
appointment came up there was a tie, and the matter went over for a
week. During the week one of the Beanston supporters was given the
privilege of naming a janitor, and the suspicion that a trade had been
made was justified when on roll-call he hung his head and murmured
"Wells." The cause seemed lost; but when later in the alphabetical roll
Scott's name was reached, he threw up his head and almost shouted
"Beanston," offsetting the loss of the turncoat and leaving the vote
still a tie. It was never called up again, and Beanston retained the
place for another two years.
Early in 1901 I was called up on the telephone and asked to come to
Mayor Phelan's office at once. I found there some of the most ardent
civil service supporters in the city. Richard J. Freud, a member of the
Civil Service Commission, had suddenly died the night before. The
vacancy was filled by the mayor's appointment. Eugene Schmitz had been
elected mayor and would take his seat the following day, and the friends
of civil service distrusted his integrity. They did not dare to allow
him to act. Haste seemed discourteous to the memory of Freud, but he
would want the best for the service. Persuaded of the gravity of the
matter, I accepted the appointment for a year and filed my commission
before returning to my place of business. I enjoyed the work and its
obvious advantage to the departments under its operation. The Police
Department especially was given an intelligent and well-equipped force.
An amusing incident of an examination for promotion to the position of
corporal concerned the hopes we entertained for the success of a popular
patrolman. But he did not apply. One day one of the board met him and
asked him if he was not to try for it. "I think not," he replied. "My
early education was very unlimited. What I know, I know; but I'll be
damned if I'm going to give you fellows a chance to find out what I
I chanced to visit Washington during my term as commissioner, and
through the courtesy of Senator Perkins had a pleasant call on President
Roosevelt. A Senator seems to have ready access to the ordinary
President, and almost before I realized it we were in the strenuous
presence. A cordial hand-clasp and a genial smile followed my
introduction, and as the Senator remarked that I was a Civil Service
Commissioner, the President called: "Shake again. I used to be one of
those fellows myself."
Senator Perkins went on: "Mr. Murdock and I have served for many years
as fellow trustees of the Boys and Girls Aid Society."
"Ah," said the President, "modeled, I presume, on Brace's society, in
which my father was greatly interested. Do you know I believe work with
boys is about the only hope? It's pretty hard to change a man, but when
you can start a boy in the right way he has a chance." Turning to me he
remarked, "Did you know that Governor Brady of Alaska was one of
Brace's placed-out boys!" Then of Perkins he asked, "By the way,
Senator, how is Brady doing?"
"Very well, I understand," replied the Senator. "I believe he is a
thoroughly honest man."
"Yes; but is he also able? It is as necessary for a man in public life
to be able as to be honest."
He bade us a hearty good-by as we left him. He impressed me as
untroubled and courageous, ready every day for what came, and meeting
life with cheer.
The story of the moral and political revolution of 1907 has never been
adequately told, nor have the significance and importance of the event
been fully recognized. The facts are of greater import than the record;
but an eyewitness has responsibility, and I feel moved to give my
Perhaps so complete a reversal of spirit and administration was never
before reached without an election by the people. The faithfulness and
nerve of one official backed by the ability of a detective employed by a
public-spirited citizen rescued the city government from the control of
corrupt and irresponsible men and substituted a mayor and board of
supervisors of high character and unselfish purpose. This was
accomplished speedily and quietly.
With positive proof of bribery that left conviction and a term in
prison as the alternative to resignation, District Attorney William H.
Langdon had complete control of the situation. In consultation with
those who had proved their interest in the welfare of the city, he asked
Edward Robeson Taylor to serve as mayor, privileged to select sixteen
citizens to act as supervisors in place of the implicated incumbents,
who would be induced to resign. Dr. Taylor was an attorney of the
highest standing, an idealist of fearless and determined character. No
pledges hampered him. He was free to act in redeeming the city. In turn,
he asked no pledge or promise of those whom he selected to serve as
supervisors. He named men whom he felt he could trust, and he
subsequently left them alone, asking nothing of them and giving them no
It was the year after the fire. I was conducting a substitute
printing-office in the old car-barn at Geary and Buchanan streets. One
morning Dr. Taylor came in and asked if he might speak to me in private.
I was not supplied with facilities for much privacy, but I asked him in
and we found seats in the corner of the office farthest from the
bookkeeper. Without preliminary, he said, "I want you to act as one of
the supervisors." Wholly surprised, I hesitated a moment and then
assured him that my respect for him and what he had undertaken was so
great that if he was sure he wanted me I would serve. He went out with
no further comment, and I heard nothing more of it until I received a
notice to meet at his office in the temporary City Hall on July 16th.
In response to the call I found fifteen other men, most of whom I knew
slightly. We seemed to be waiting for something. Mr. Langdon was there
and Mr. Burns, the detective, was in and out. Mr. Gallagher, late acting
mayor and an old-time friend of the District Attorney, was helping in
the transfer, in which he was included. Langdon would suggest some
procedure: "How will this do, Jim?" "It seems to me, Billy, that this
will be better," Gallagher would reply. Burns finally reported that the
last of the "bunch" had signed his resignation and that we could go
ahead. We filed into the boardroom. Mayor Taylor occupied the chair, to
which the week before he had been obediently but not enthusiastically
elected by "those about to die." The supervisor alphabetically ranking
offered his written resignation, which the mayor promptly accepted. He
then appointed as successor the first, alphabetically, on his list. The
deputy county clerk was conveniently near and promptly administered the
oath and certified the commission. The old member slunk or swaggered out
and the new member took his place. So the dramatic scene continued until
the transformation was accomplished and a new era dawned. The atmosphere
was changed, but was very serious and determined. Everyone felt the
gravity of the situation and that we had no easy task ahead. Solemnity
marked the undertaking and full realization that hard work alone could
overcome obstacles and restore endurable conditions.
Many of the men selected by Dr. Taylor had enjoyed experience and all
were anxious to do their best. With firm grasp and resolute procedure,
quick results followed. There was to be an election in November. Some of
the strongest members had accepted service as an emergency call and
could not serve longer; but an incredible amount of planning was
accomplished and a great deal disposed of, so that though ten of the
appointed board served but six months they had rendered a great service
and fortunately were succeeded by other men of character, and the good
work went steadily on. In looking back to the problems that confronted
the appointed board and the first elected board, also headed by Dr.
Taylor, they seem insurmountable.
It is hard now to appreciate the physical conditions of the city. It was
estimated that not less than five million dollars would be required to
put the streets into any decent condition. It was at first proposed to
include this, sum in the bond issue that could not be escaped, but
reflection assured us that so temporary a purpose was not a proper use
of bond money, and we met the expenditure from the annual tax levy. We
found the smallest amount required for urgent expenditure in excess of
the tax levy was $18,200,000, and at a special election held early in
1908 the voters endorsed the proposed issue by a vote of over 21,000 to
1800. The three largest expenditures were for an auxiliary water system
for fire protection ($5,200,000), for school buildings ($5,000,000), and
for sewers ($4,000,000).
I cannot follow the various steps by which order was brought out of
chaos, nor can I give special acknowledgment where it is manifestly due;
but I can bear testimony to the unselfishness and faithfulness of a
remarkable body of public officials and to a few of the things
accomplished. To correct gross evils and restore good conditions is no
slight task; but to substitute the best for the worst is a great
achievement. This San Francisco has done in several marked instances.
There was a time when about the only thing we could boast was that we
spent a _less_ sum per capita than any city in the Union for the care of
hospital patients. I remember hearing that fine citizen, Frederick
Dohrmann, once say, "Every supervisor who has gone out of public service
leaving our old County Hospital standing is guilty of a municipal
crime." It was a disgrace of which we were ashamed. The fire had spared
the building, but the new supervisors did not. We now have one of the
best hospitals in the country, admirably conducted.
Our City Prison is equally reversed. It was our shame; it is our pride.
The old Almshouse was a discreditable asylum for the politician who
chanced to superintend it. Today our "Relief Home" is a model for the
country. In 1906 the city was destroyed because unprotected against
fire. Today we are as safe as a city can be. In the meantime the reduced
cost of insurance pays insured citizens a high rate of interest on the
cost of our high-pressure auxiliary fire system. Our streets were once
noted for their poor construction and their filthy condition. Recently
an informed visitor has pronounced them the best to be found. We had no
creditable boulevards or drives. Quietly and without bond expenditure we
have constructed magnificent examples. Our school buildings were shabby
and poor. Many now are imposing and beautiful.
This list could be extended; but turn for a moment to matters of
manners. Where are the awful corner-groceries that helped the saloons to
ruin men and boys, and where are the busy nickel-in-the-slot machines
and shameless smokers in the street-cars? Where are the sellers of
lottery tickets, where the horse-races and the open gambling?
It was my fortune to be re-elected for eight years. Sometimes I am
impressed by how little I seem to have individually accomplished in this
long period of time. One effect of experience is to modify one's
expectations. It is not nearly so easy to accomplish things as one who
has not tried is apt to imagine. Reforming is not an easy process.
Inertia is something really to be overcome, and one is often surprised
to find how obstinate majorities can be. Initiative is a rare faculty
and an average legislator must be content to follow. One can render good
service sometimes by what he prevents. Again, he may finally fail in
some good purpose through no fault of his own, and yet win something
even in losing. Early in my term I was convinced that one thing that
ought to be changed was our absurd liquor license. We had by far the
lowest tax of any city in the Union, and naturally had the largest
number of saloons. I tried to have the license raised from eighty-four
dollars to one thousand dollars, hoping to reduce our twenty-four
hundred saloons. I almost succeeded. When I failed the liquor interest
was so frightened at its narrow escape that it led the people to adopt a
I was led to undertake the correction of grave abuses and confusion in
the naming of the city streets. The post-office authorities were greatly
hampered in the mail delivery by the duplicate use of names. The
dignified word "avenue" had been conferred on many alleys. A commission
worked diligently and efficiently. One set of numbered streets was
eliminated. The names of men who had figured in the history of the city
were given to streets bearing their initials. Anza, Balboa, and
Cabrillo gave meaning to A, B, and C. We gave Columbus an avenue,
Lincoln a "way," and substituted for East Street the original name of
the waterfront, "The Embarcadero." In all we made more than four hundred
changes and corrections.
There were occasional humorous incidents connected with this task. There
were opposition and prejudice against names offered. Some one proposed a
"St. Francis Boulevard." An apparently intelligent man asked why we
wanted to perpetuate the name of "that old pirate." I asked, "Who do you
think we have in mind?" He replied, "I suppose you would honor Sir
Francis Drake." He seemed never to have heard of Saint Francis of
It was predicted that the Taylor administration with its excellent
record would be continued, but at the end of two years it went down to
defeat and the Workingmen's party, with P.H. McCarthy as mayor, gained
strong control. For two years, as a minority member, I enjoyed a
different but interesting experience. It involved some fighting and
preventive effort; but I found that if one fought fairly he was accorded
consideration and opportunity. I introduced a charter amendment that
seemed very desirable, and it found favor. The charter prescribed a
two-year term for eighteen supervisors and their election each alternate
year. Under the provision it was possible to have every member without
experience. By making the term four years and electing nine members
every other year experience was assured, and the ballot would be half
the length, a great advantage. It had seemed wise to me to allow the
term of the mayor to remain two years, but the friends of Mayor McCarthy
were so confident of his re-election that they insisted on a four-year
term. As so amended the matter went to the people and was adopted. At
the following election Mayor James Rolph, Jr., was elected for four
years, two of which were an unintentional gift of his political
I served for four years under the energetic Rolph, and they were
fruitful ones. Most of the plans inaugurated by the Taylor board were
carried out, and materially the city made great strides. The Exposition
was a revelation of what was possible, and of the City Hall and the
Civic Center we may well be proud.
Some of my supervisorial experiences were trying and some were amusing.
Discussion was often relieved by rare bits of eloquence and surprising
use of language. Pronunciation was frequently original and
unprecedented. Amazing ignorance was unconcealed and the gift of gab was
unrestrained. Nothing quite equaled in fatal facility a progress report
made by a former member soon after his debut: "We think we shall soon be
able to bring chaos out of the present disorder, now existing." On one
of our trips of investigation the City Engineer had remarked on the
watershed. One of the members later cornered him and asked "Where is the
watershed?" expecting to be shown a building that had escaped his
A pleasant episode of official duty early in Rolph's term was an
assignment to represent the city at a national municipal congress at Los
Angeles. We were called upon, in connection with a study of municipal
art, to make an exhibit of objects of beauty or ornament presented to
the city by its citizens. We felt that San Francisco had been kindly
dealt with, but were surprised at the extent and variety of the gifts.
Enlarged sepia photographs of structures, monuments, bronzes, statuary,
and memorials of all kinds were gathered and framed uniformly. There
were very many, and they reflected great credit and taste. Properly
inscribed, they filled a large room in Los Angeles and attracted much
attention. Interest was enhanced by the cleverness of the young woman in
charge. The general title of the collection was "Objects of Art
Presented by its Citizens to the City of San Francisco." She left a
space and over a conspicuous panel printed the inscription "Objects of
Art Presented by its Citizens to the City of Los Angeles." The panel was
empty. The ordinarily proud city had nothing to show.
Moses at Pisgah gazed upon the land he was not to enter. My Pisgah was
reached at the end of 1916. My halls of service were temporary. The new
City Hall was not occupied until just after I had found my political
Moab; the pleasure of sitting in a hall which is pronounced the most
beautiful in America was not for me.
As I look back upon varied public service, I am not clear as to its
value; but I do not regret having tried to do my part. My practical
creed was never to seek and never to decline opportunity to serve. I
feel that the effort to do what I was able to do hardly justified
itself; but it always seemed worth trying, and I do not hold myself
responsible for results. I am told that in parts of California
infinitesimal diatoms form deposits five thousand feet in thickness. If
we have but little to give we cannot afford not to give it.
On the morning of October 18, 1850, there appeared in San Francisco's
morning paper the following notice:
RELIGIOUS INTELLIGENCE There will be Religious Services (Unitarian)
on Sunday Morning next, October 20th, at Simmons' Athenaeum Hall.
Entrance on Commercial and Sacramento Streets. A Discourse will be
preached by Rev. Charles A. Farley.
San Francisco at this time was a community very unlike any known to
history. Two years before it is said to have numbered eight hundred
souls, and two years before that about two hundred. During the year
1849, perhaps thirty thousand men had come from all over the world, of
whom many went to the mines. The directory of that year contained
twenty-five hundred names. By October, 1850, the population may have
been twenty thousand. They were scattered thinly over a hilly and rough
peninsula, chaparral-covered but for drifting sand and with few
habitable valleys. From Pacific to California streets and from Dupont to
the bay was the beginning of the city's business. A few streets were
graded and planked. Clay Street stretched up to Stockton. To the south
mountains of sand filled the present Market Street, and protected by
them nestled Happy Valley, reaching from First to Third streets and
beyond Mission. In 1849 it was a city of tents. Wharves were pushing out
into the bay. Long Wharf (Commercial Street) reached deep water about
where Drumm Street now crosses it.
Among the motley argonauts were a goodly number of New Englanders,
especially from Boston and Maine. Naturally some of them were
Unitarians. It seems striking that so many of them were interested in
holding services. They had all left "home" within a year or so, and most
of them expected to go back within two years with their respective
fortunes. When it was learned that a real Unitarian minister was among
them, they arranged for a service. The halls of the period were west of
Kearny Street in Sacramento and California. They secured the Athenaeum
and gave notice in the _Alta California_.
It is significant that the day the notice appeared proved to be
historical. The steamer "Oregon" was due, and it was hoped she would
bring the news of favorable action by Congress on the application of
California to be admitted into the Union. When in the early forenoon the
steamer, profusely decorated with bunting, rounded Clark's Point
assurance was given, and by the time she landed at Commercial and Drumm
the town was wild with excitement.
[Illustration: THOMAS STARR KING. SAN FRANCISCO, 1860-1864]
Eastern papers sold readily at a dollar a copy. All day and night
impromptu celebrations continued. Unnumbered silk hats (commonly worn by
professional men and leading merchants) were demolished and champagne
flowed freely. It should be remembered that thirty-nine days had elapsed
since the actual admission, but none here had known it.
The Pilgrim Yankees must have felt like going to church now that
California was a part of the Union and that another free state had been
born. At any rate, the service conducted by Rev. Charles A. Farley was
voted a great success. One man had brought a service-book and another a
hymnbook. Four of the audience volunteered to lead the singing, while
another played an accompaniment on the violin. After the services
twenty-five men remained to talk things over, and arranged to continue
services from week to week. On November 17, 1850, "The First Unitarian
Church of San Francisco" was organized, Captain Frederick W. Macondray
being made the first Moderator.
Mr. Farley returned to New England in April, 1851, and services were
suspended. Then occurred two very serious fires, disorganizing
conditions and compelling postponement. It was more than a year before
an attempt was made to call another minister.
In May, 1852, Rev. Joseph Harrington was invited to take charge of the
church. He came in August and began services under great promise in the
United States District Court building. A few weeks later he was taken
alarmingly ill, and died on November 2d. It was a sad blow, but the
society withstood it calmly and voted to complete the building it had
begun in Stockton Street, near Sacramento. Rev. Frederic T. Gray, of
Bulfinch Street Chapel, Boston, under a leave of absence for a year,
came to California and dedicated the church on July 1, 1853. This was
the beginning of continuous church services. On the following Sunday,
Pilgrim Sunday-school was organized.
Mr. Gray, a kind and gentle soul, rendered good service in organizing
the activities of the church. He was succeeded by Rev. Rufus P. Cutler,
of Portland, Maine, a refined, scholarly man, who served for nearly five
years. He resigned and sailed for New York in June, 1859. During his
term the Sunday-school prospered under the charge of Samuel L. Lloyd.
Rev. J.A. Buckingham filled the pulpit for ten months preceding April
28, 1860, when Thomas Starr King arrived. The next day Mr. King faced a
congregation that crowded the church to overflowing and won the warm and
enthusiastic regard of all, including many new adherents. With a winning
personality, eloquent and brilliant, he was extraordinarily attractive
as a preacher and as a man. He had great gifts and he was profoundly in
earnest--a kindly, friendly, loving soul.
In 1861 I planned to pass through the city on Sunday with the
possibility of hearing him. The church was crowded. I missed no word of
his wonderful voice. He looked almost boyish, but his eyes and his
bearing proclaimed him a man, and his word was thrilling. I heard him
twice and went to my distant home with a blessed memory and an enlarged
ideal of the power of a preacher. Few who heard him still survive, but a
woman of ninety-three years who loves him well vividly recalls his
second service that led to a friendship that lasted all his life.
In his first year he accomplished wonders for the church. He had felt on
coming that in a year he should return to his devoted people in the
Hollis Street Church of Boston. But when Fort Sumter was fired upon he
saw clearly his appointed place. He threw himself into the struggle to
hold California in the Union. He lectured and preached everywhere,
stimulating patriotism and loyalty. He became a great national leader
and the most influential person on the Pacific Coast. He turned
California from a doubtful state to one of solid loyalty. Secession
defeated, he accomplished wonders for the Sanitary Commission.
A large part of 1863 he gave to the building of the beautiful church in
Geary street near Stockton. It was dedicated in January, 1864. He
preached in it but seven Sundays, when he was attacked with a malady
which in these days is not considered serious but from which he died on
March 4th, confirming a premonition that he would not live to the age of
forty. He was very deeply mourned. It was regarded a calamity to the
entire community. To the church and the denomination the loss seemed
To Dr. Henry W. Bellows, of New York, the acknowledged Unitarian leader,
was entrusted the selection of the one to fill the vacant pulpit. He
knew the available men and did not hesitate. He notified Horatio
Stebbins, of Portland, Maine, that he was called by the great disaster
to give up the parish he loved and was satisfied to serve and take the
post of the fallen leader on the distant shore.
Dr. Bellows at once came to San Francisco to comfort the bereaved church
and to prepare the way for Mr. Stebbins, who in the meantime went to New
York to minister to Dr. Bellows' people in his absence.
It was during the brief and brilliant ministry of Dr. Bellows that good
fortune brought me to San Francisco.
Dr. Bellows was a most attractive preacher, persuasive and eloquent. His
word and his manner were so far in advance of anything to which I was
accustomed that they came as a revelation of power and beauty. I was
entranced, and a new world of thought and feeling opened before me. Life
itself took on a new meaning, and I realized the privilege offered in
such a church home. I joined without delay, and my connection has been
uninterrupted from that day to this. For over fifty-seven years I have
missed few opportunities to profit by its services. I speak of it not in
any spirit of boasting, but in profound gratitude. Physical disability
and absence from the city have both been rare. In the absence of reasons
I have never felt like offering excuses.
Early in September, Horatio Stebbins and family arrived from New York,
and Dr. Bellows returned to his own church. The installation of the
successor of Starr King was an impressive event. The church building
that had been erected by and for King was a beautiful and commodious
building, but it would not hold all the people that sought to attend the
installation of the daring man who came to take up the great work laid
down by the preacher-patriot. He was well received, and a feeling of
relief was manifest. The church was still in strong hands and the
traditions would be maintained.
On September 9th Dr. Stebbins stood modestly but resolutely in the
pulpit so sanctified by the memory of King. Few men have faced sharper
trials and met them with more serenity and apparent lack of
consciousness. It was not because of self-confidence or of failure to
recognize what was before him. He knew very well what was implied in
following such a man as Starr King, but he was so little concerned with
anything so comparatively unimportant as self-interest or so unessential
as personal success that he was unruffled and calm. He indulged in no
illusion of filling Mr. King's place. He stood on his own feet to make
his own place, and to do his own work in his own way, with such results
as came, and he was undisturbed.
Toward the end of his life he spoke of always having preached from the
level of his own mind. It was always true of him. He never strained for
effect, or seemed unduly concerned for results. In one of his prayers he
expresses his deep philosophy of life: "Help us, each one in his place,
in the place which is providentially allotted to us in life, to act well
our part, with consecrated will, with pure affection, with simplicity of
heart--to do our duty, and to leave the rest to God." It was wholly in
that spirit that Dr. Stebbins took up the succession of Thomas Starr
Personally, I was very glad to renew my early admiration for Mr.
Stebbins, who had chosen his first parish at Fitchburg, adjoining my
native town, and had always attracted me when he came to exchange with
our minister. He was a strong, original, manly character, with great
endowments of mind and heart. He was to enjoy a remarkable ministry of
over thirty-five years and endear himself to all who knew him. He was a
great preacher and a great man. He inspired confidence, and was broad
and generous. He served the community as well as his church, being
especially influential in promoting the interests of education. He was a
kindly and helpful man, and he was not burdened by his large duties and
responsibilities, he was never hurried or harassed. He steadily pursued
his placid way and built up a really great influence. He was, above all
else, an inspirer of steadfast faith. With a great capacity for
friendship, he was very generous in it, and was indulgent in judgment of
those he liked. I was a raw and ignorant young man, but he opened his
great heart to me and treated me like an equal. Twenty years difference
in years seemed no barrier. He was fond of companionship in his travels,
and I often accompanied him as he was called up and down the coast. In
1886 I went to the Boston May Meeting in his company and found delight
in both him and it. He was a good traveler, enjoying the change of scene
and the contact with all sorts of people. He was courteous and friendly
with strangers, meeting them on their own ground with sympathy and
In his own home he was especially happy, and it was a great privilege to
share his table-talk and hospitality, for he had a great fund of kindly
humor and his speech was bright with homely metaphor and apt allusions.
Not only was he a great preacher, he was a leader, an inspirer, and a
provoker of good.
What it meant to fall under the influence of such a man cannot be told.
Supplementing the blessing was the association with a number of the best
of men among the church adherents. Hardly second to the great and
unearned friendship of Dr. Stebbins was that of Horace Davis, ten years
my senior, and very close to Dr. Stebbins in every way. He had been
connected with the church almost from the first and was a firm friend of
Starr King. Like Dr. Stebbins, he was a graduate of Harvard. Scholarly,
and also able in business, he typified sound judgment and common sense,
was conservative by nature, but fresh and vigorous of mind. He was
active in the Sunday-school. We also were associated in club life and as
fellow directors of the Lick School. Our friendship was uninterrupted
for more than fifty years. I had great regard for Mrs. Davis and many
happy hours were passed in their home. Her interpretation of Beethoven
was in my experience unequaled.
It is impossible even to mention the many men of character and
conscience who were a helpful influence to me in my happy church life.
Captain Levi Stevens was very good to me; C. Adolphe Low was one of the
best men I ever knew; I had unbounded respect for Horatio Frost; Dr.
Henry Gibbons was very dear to me; and Charles R. Bishop I could not but
love. These few represent a host of noble associates. I would I could
mention more of them.
[Illustration: HORATIO STEBBINS. SAN FRANCISCO, 1864-1900]
We all greatly enjoyed the meetings of a Shakespeare Club that was
sustained for more than twelve consecutive years among congenial friends
in the church. We read half a play every other week, devoting the latter
part of the evening to impromptu charades, in which we were utterly
regardless of dignity and became quite expert.
At our annual picnics we joined in the enjoyment of the children. I
recall my surprise and chagrin at having challenged Mr. Davis to a
footrace at Belmont one year, giving him distance as an age handicap,
and finding that I had overestimated the advantage of ten years
In 1890 we established the Unitarian Club of California. Mr. Davis was
the first president. For seventeen years it was vigorous and prosperous.
We enjoyed a good waiting-list and twice raised the limit of membership
numbers. It was then the only forum in the city for the discussion of
subjects of public interest. Many distinguished visitors were
entertained. Booker T. Washington was greeted by a large audience and so
were Susan B. Anthony and Anna H. Shaw. As time passed, other
organizations afforded opportunity for discussion, and numerous less
formal church clubs accomplished its purpose in a simpler manner.
A feature of strength in our church has been the William and Alice
Hinckley Fund, established in 1879 by the will of Captain William C.
Hinckley, under the counsel and advice of Dr. Stebbins. His wife had
died, he had no children, and he wanted his property to be helpful to
others. He appointed the then church trustees his executors and the
trustees of an endowment to promote human beneficence and charity,
especially commending the aged and lonely and the interests of education
and religion. Shortly after coming to San Francisco, in 1850, he had
bought a lot in Bush Street for sixty dollars. At the time of his death
it was under lease to the California Theater Company at a ground rent of
a thousand dollars a month. After long litigation, the will was
sustained as to $52,000, the full proportion of his estate allowed for
charity. I have served as secretary of the trust fund for forty years. I
am also surviving trustee for a library fund of $10,000 and another
charity fund of $5000. These three funds have earned in interest more
than $105,000. We have disbursed for the purposes indicated $92,000, and
have now on hand as capital more than $80,000, the interest on which we
disburse annually. It has been my fortune to outlive the eight trustees
appointed with me, and, also, eight since appointed to fill vacancies
caused by death or removal.
We worshiped in the Geary and Stockton church for more than twenty-three
years, and then concluded it was time to move from a business district
to a residential section. We sold the building with the lot that had
cost $16,000 for $120,000, and at the corner of Franklin and Geary
streets built a fine church, costing, lot included, $91,000. During
construction we met in the Synagogue Emanu-El, and the Sunday-school was
hospitably entertained in the First Congregational Church, which
circumstances indicate the friendly relations maintained by our
minister, who never arraigned or engaged in controversy with any other
household of faith. In 1889 the new church was dedicated, Dr. Hedge
writing a fine hymn for the occasion.
Dr. Stebbins generally enjoyed robust health, but in 1899 he was
admonished that he must lay down the work he loved so well. In September
of that year, at his own request, he was relieved from active service
and elected Minister Emeritus. Subsequently his health improved, and
frequently he was able to preach; but in 1900, with his family, he
returned to New England, where he lived with a good degree of comfort at
Cambridge, near his children, occasionally preaching, but gradually
failing in health. He suffered severely at the last, and found final
release on April 8, 1901.
Of the later history of the church I need say little. Recollections root
in the remote. For thirteen years we were served by Rev. Bradford
Leavitt, and for the past eight Rev. Caleb S.S. Dutton has been our
leader. The noble traditions of the past have been followed and the
place in the community has been fully maintained. The church has been a
steady and powerful influence for good, and many a life has been
quickened, strengthened, and made more abundant through its ministry. To
me it has been a never-failing source of satisfaction and happiness.
I would also bear brief testimony to the Sunday-school. All my life I
had attended Sunday-school,--the best available. I remember well the
school in Leominster and the stories told by Deacon Cotton and others. I
remember nay teacher in Boston. Coming to California I took what I could
get, first the little Methodist gathering and then the more respectable
Presbyterian. When in early manhood I came to San Francisco I entered
the Bible-class at once. The school was large and vigorous. The
attendance was around four hundred. Lloyd Baldwin, an able lawyer, was
my first teacher, and a good one, but very soon I was induced to take a
class of small boys. They were very bright and too quick for a youth
from the country. One Sunday we chanced to have as a lesson the healing
of the daughter of Jairus. In the gospel account the final word was the
injunction: "Jesus charged them that they tell no man." In all innocence
I asked the somewhat leading question: "What did Jesus charge them?"
Quick as a flash one of the boys answered, "He didn't charge them a
cent." It was so pat and so unexpected that I could not protest at the
In the Sunday-school library I met Charles W. Wendte, then a clerk in
the Bank of California. He had been befriended and inspired by Starr
King and soon turned from business and studied for the ministry. He is
now a D.D. and has a long record of valuable service.
In 1869 J.C.A. Hill became superintendent of the school and appointed me
his assistant. Four years later he returned to New Hampshire, much to
our regret, and I succeeded him. With the exception of the two years
that Rev. William G. Eliot, Jr., was assistant to Dr. Stebbins, and took
charge of the school, I served until 1914.
Very many pleasant memories cluster around my connection with the
Sunday-school. The friendships made have been enduring. The beautiful
young lives lured me on in service that never grew monotonous, and I
have been paid over and over again for all I ever gave. It is a great
satisfaction to feel that five of our nine church trustees are graduates
of the Sunday-school. I attended my first Christmas festival of the
Sunday-school in Platt's Hall in 1864, and I have never missed one
since. Fifty-seven consecutive celebrations incidentally testify to
In looking back on what I have gained from the church, I am impressed
with the fact that the association with the fine men and women
attending it has been a very important part of my life. Good friends
are of untold value, and inspiration is not confined to the spoken words
of the minister. Especially am I impressed with the stream of community
helpfulness that has flowed steadily from our church all these years. I
wish I dared to refer to individual instances--but they are too many.
Finally, I must content myself with acknowledgment of great obligation
for all I have profited from and enjoyed in church affiliation. I cannot
conceive how any man can afford not to avail himself of the privilege of
standing by some church. As an investment I am assured that nothing pays
better and surer interest. Returns are liberal, dividends are never
passed, and capital never depreciates.
In the conduct of life we select, or have assigned, certain measures of
activity upon which we rely for our support and the self-respect that
follows the doing of our part. This we call our business, and if we are
wise we attend to it and prosecute it with due diligence and
application. But it is not all of life, and its claim is not the only
call that is made upon us. Exclusive interest and devotion to it may end
in the sort of success that robs us of the highest value, so that,
however much substance we accumulate, we are failures as men. On the
other hand, we take risks if we slight its just demands and scatter our
powers on miscellaneous interests. Whatever its value, every man, in
addition to what he primarily produces, turns out some by-product. If it
is worth anything, he may be thankful and add the amount to total
The extracts of which this chapter is composed are selections from the
editorial columns of _The Pacific Unitarian_, submitted not as exhibits
in the case of achievement, but as indicating the convictions I have
formed on the way of life.
Thirty years ago, a fairly active Sunday-school was instigated to
publish a monthly journal, nominally for all the organizations of the
First Unitarian Society. It was not expected to be of great benefit,
except to the school. After a year and a half it was adopted by the
Conference, its modest name, _The Guidon_, being expanded to _The
Pacific Unitarian_. Its number of pages was increased to thirty-two.
Probably the most remarkable circumstance connected with it is that it
has lived. The fact that it has enjoyed the opportunity of choice
between life and death is quite surprising. Other journals have had to
die. It has never been easy to live, or absolutely necessary to die.
Anyhow, we have the thirty years of life to look back upon and take
satisfaction in. We are grateful for friends far and near, and generous
commendation has been pleasant to receive, whether it has been justified
We realize more and more truly that Christianity in its spirit is a very
different thing from Christianity as a theological structure formulated
by the makers of the creed. The amazing thing is that such a
misconception of the message of Jesus as has generally prevailed has
given us a civilization so creditable. The early councils were incapable
of being led by the spirit of Jesus. They were prejudiced by their
preconceptions of the character of God and the nature of religion, and
evolved a scheme of salvation to fit past conceptions instead of
accepting as real the love of God and of man that Jesus added to the
religion of his fathers. Even the Christianity they fashioned has not
been fairly tried. The Christianity that Jesus proclaimed, a call to
trust, to love, and spiritual life, has hardly been tried at all. We
seem just to be awakening to what it is, and to its application to the
art of living.
THE PRODIGAL'S FATHER
What a difference in the thought of God and in the joy of life would
have followed had the hearers of Jesus given the parable of the Prodigal
Son its full significance! They would then have found in the happy,
loving father and his full forgiveness of the son who "came to himself"
a type of the Heavenly Father. The shadow of the olden fear still
persists, chilling human life. We do not trust the love of God and bear
life's burdens with cheerful courage. From lurking fear of the jealous
king of Hebrew tradition, we are even afraid to be happy when we might.
We fail of faith in the reality of God's love. We forget the robe, the
ring, the overflowing joy of the earthly father, not earned by the
prodigal, but given from complete love. The thing best worth while is
faith in the love of God.
If it be lacking, perhaps the best way to gain it is to assume it--to
act on the basis of its existence, putting aside our doubts, and giving
whatever love we have in our own hearts a chance to strengthen.
Whitsuntide is a church season that too often fails to receive due
acknowledgment or recognition. It is, in observance, a poor third.
Christmas is largely diverted to a giving of superfluous gifts, and is
popular from the wide-felt interest in the happiness of children. Easter
we can not forget, for it celebrates the rising or the risen life, and
is marked by the fresh beauty of a beautiful world. To appreciate the
pentecostal season and to care for spiritual inspiration appeals to the
few, and to those few on a higher plane. But of all that religion has to
give, it represents the highest gift, and it has to do with the world's
Spiritual life is the most precious of possessions, the highest
attainment of humanity. Happy are we if our better spirit be quickened,
if our hearts be lifted up, and our wills be strengthened, that worthy
life may bring peace and joy!
WHY THE CHURCH?
We cannot deny the truth that the things of the spirit are of first
importance; but when it comes to living we seem to belie our
convictions. We live as though we thought the spirit a doubtful matter.
There are those who take pride in calling themselves materialists, but
they are hardly as hopeless as those who are so indifferent that they
have no opinion whatever. The man who thinks and cares is quite apt to
come out right, but the mindless animal who only enjoys develops no
recognizable soul. The seeking first is not in derogation of any true
manhood. It is the full life, the whole life, that we are to
compass--but life subordinated and controlled by the spirit, the spirit
that recognizes the distinction between right and wrong. Those who
choose the right and bend all else to it, are of the Kingdom. That is
all that righteousness means.
The church has no monopoly of righteousness, but it is of immense
importance in cultivating the religious spirit, and cannot safely be
dispensed with. And so it must be strongly supported and made efficient.
To those who know true values this is an investment that cannot safely
be ignored. To it we should give generously of our money, but equally
generously we should give ourselves--our presence, our co-operation, our
loyal support of our leaders, our constant effort to hold it to high
ideals. If it is to give life, it must have life, and whatever life it
has is the aggregation of our collected and consecrated lives.
The church called Christian cannot win by holding its old trenches. It
must advance to the line that stretches from our little fortress where
the flag of Reason and Religion defiantly floats. Shall we retreat? No;
it is for us to hold the fort at all costs, not for our sake alone, but
for the army of humanity.
We believe in God and we believe in man. As President Eliot lately put
it, "We believe in the principles of a simple, practical, and democratic
religion. We are meeting ignorance, not with contempt, but with
knowledge. We are meeting dogmatism and superstition, not with
impatience, but with truth. We are meeting sin and injustice, not with
abuse, but with good-will and high idealism. We have the right message
for our time." To the church that seems to us to most nearly realize
these ideals, it is our bounden duty, and should be our glad privilege,
to present ourselves a reasonable sacrifice, that we may do our part in
bringing in God's Kingdom.
THE CHURCH AND PROGRESS
Reforms depend upon reformed men. Perhaps the greater need is _formed_
men. As we survey the majority of men around us, they seem largely
unconscious of what they really are and of the privileges and
responsibilities that appertain to manhood. It must be that men are
better, and more, than they seem. Visit a baseball game or a movie. The
crowds seem wholly irresponsible, and, except in the pleasure or
excitement sought, utterly uninterested--apparently without principle or
purpose. And yet, when called upon to serve their country, men will go
to the ends of the world, and place no limit on the sacrifice freely
made for the general good. They are better than they seem, and in ways
we know not of possess a sense of justice and a love of right which they
found we know not where.
This is encouraging, but must not relieve us from doing our utmost to
inform more fully every son of man of his great opportunity and
responsibility, and also of inspiring him to use his life to his and our
It is so evident that world-welfare rests upon individual well-being
that we cannot escape the conviction that the best thing any one of us
can do is to help to make our fellow-men better and happier. And the
part of wisdom is to organize for the power we gain.
It would seem that the church should be the most effective agency for
promoting individual worth and consequent happiness. Is it?--and if not,
why not? We are apt to say we live in a new age, forgetting how little
change of form matters. Human nature, with its instincts and desires,
love of self, and the general enjoyment of, and through, possessions, is
so little changed that differences in condition and circumstance have
only a modifying influence. It is man, the man within, that counts--not
But it is true that human institutions do undergo great changes, and
nothing intimate and important has suffered greater changes than the
church. Religion itself, vastly more important than the church, has
changed and is changing. Martineau's illuminating classification helps
us to realize this. The first expression, the pagan, was based on fear
and the idea of winning favor by purchase, giving something to God--it
might be burnt-offerings--for his good-will. Then came the Jewish, the
ethical, the thought of doing, rather than giving. Righteousness earns
God's favor. The higher conception blossomed into Christianity with its
trust in the love of God and of serving him and fellow-man,
self-sacrifice being the highest expression of harmony with him.
Following this general advance from giving and doing to being, we have
the altar, the temple, and the church.
THE GENUINE UNITARIAN
Unitarians owe first allegiance to the Kingdom of God on earth. It is of
little consequence through which door it is entered. If any other is
nearer or broader or more attractive, use it. We offer ours for those
who prefer it or who find others not to be entered without a password
they cannot pronounce.
A Unitarian who merely says he is one thereby gives no satisfactory
evidence that he is. There are individuals who seem to think they are
Unitarians because they are nothing else. They regard Unitarianism as
the next to nothing in its requirement of belief, losing all sight of
the fact that even one real belief exceeds, and may be more difficult
than, many half-beliefs and hundreds of make-beliefs, and that a
Unitarian church made up of those who have discarded all they thought
they believed and became Unitarian for its bald negations is to be
pitied and must be patiently nurtured.
As regards our responsibility for the growth of Unitarianism, we surely
cannot fail to recognize it, but it should be clearly qualified by our
recognition of the object in view. To regard Unitarianism as an end to
be pursued for its own sake does not seem compatible with its own true
spirit. The church itself is an instrument, and we are in right relation
when we give the Unitarian church our preference, as, to us, the best
instrument, while we hold first allegiance to the idealism for which it
stands and to the goodness it seeks to unfold in the heart of man.
Nor would we seek growth at any sacrifice of high quality or purpose. We
do not expect large numbers and great popular applause. Unitarians are
pioneers, and too independent and discriminating to stir the feverish
pulse of the multitude. We seek the heights, and it is our concern to
reach them and hold them for the few that struggle up. Loaves and fishes
we have not to offer, nor can we promise wealth and health as an
attractive by-product of righteousness.
There is no better service that anyone can render than to implant
higher ideals in the breast of another. In the matter of religious
education as sought through the ordinary Sunday-school, no one who has
had any practical experience has ever found it easy, or kept free from
doubt as to its being sufficiently efficacious to make it worth while.
But the problem is to recognize the difficulty, face all doubts, and
stand by. Perfect teachers are impossible, satisfactory ones are not
always to be had. If they are not dissatisfied with themselves, they are
almost always unfit. But as between doing the best you can and doing
nothing at all, it would seem that self-respect and a sense of deep
responsibility would leave no recourse. There is no place for a shirker
or a quitter in a real Unitarian church.
HAVE WE DONE OUR WORK?
Now and then some indifferent Unitarian expresses doubt as to the future
value of our particular church. There are those who say, "Why should we
keep it up? Have we not done our work?" We have seen our original
protests largely effective, and rejoice that more liberal and generous,
and, we believe, more just and true, religious convictions prevail; but
have we been constructive and strengthening? And until we have made our
own churches fully free and fruitful in spiritual life are we absolved
from the call to service?
Have we earned our discharge from the army of life? Shall we be
deserters or slackers! We ask no man to fight with us if his loyalty to
any other corps is stronger, but to fight _somewhere_--to do his part
for God and his fellow-men wherever he can do the most effective
We are not Unitarians first. We are not even Christians first. We are
human first, seeking the best in humanity, in our appointed place in a
civilization that finds its greatest inspiration in the leadership of
Jesus of Nazareth, we are next Christians, and we are finally Unitarians
because for us their point of view embodies most truly the spirit that
animated his teachings and his life.
And so we appeal to those who really, not nominally, are of our
household of faith to feel that it is best worth while to stand by the
nearest church and to support it generously, that it may do its part in
soul service and world welfare, and also to encourage it and give it
more abundant life through attendance and participation in its
OF FIRST IMPORTANCE
It is well for each soul, in the multiplicity of questions besetting
him, to deliberately face them and determine what is of first
importance. Aspects are so diverse and bewildering that if we do not
reduce them to some order, giving them rank, we are in danger of
becoming purposeless drifters on the sea of life.
What is the most important thing in life? What shall be our aim and
purpose, as we look about us, observing our fellows--what they have
accomplished and what they are--what commends itself to us as best worth
while? And what course can we pursue to get the most and the best out of
We find a world of infinite diversity in conditions, in aims, and in
results. One of the most striking differences is in regard to what we
call success. We are prone to conclude that he who is prosperous in the
matter of having is the successful man. Possessing is the proof of
efficiency, and he who possesses little has measurably failed in the
main object of life. This conclusion has a measure of truth, but is not
wholly true. We see not a few instances of utter poverty of life
concurrent with great possessions, and are forced to conclude that the
real value of possessions is dependent on what they bring us. Merely to
have is of no advantage. Indeed it may be a burden or a curse. Happiness
is at least desirable, but it has no necessary connection with property
accumulations. They may make it possible, but they never insure it.
Possession may be an incident, but seldom is a cause.
If we follow this thought further we shall find that in the accepted
methods of accumulation arise many of the causes of current misery and
unhappiness. Generally he who is said to succeed pays a price, and a
large one, for the prosperity he achieves. To be conspicuously
successful commonly involves a degree of selfishness that is almost
surely damaging. Often injustice and unfairness are added to the train
of factors, and dishonesty and absence of decency give the finishing
touch. Every dollar tinged with doubt is a moral liability. If it has
been wrested from its rightful owner through fraud or force of
opportunity, it would better be at the bottom of the sea.
THE BEST IN LIFE
The power and practical irresponsibility of money have ruined many a
man, and the misuse of wealth has left unused immense opportunity for
good. It has coined a word that has become abhorrent, and "Capitalism"
has, in the minds of the suspicious, become the all-sufficient cause of
everything deplorable in human conditions. No true-hearted observer can
conclude that the first consideration of life should be wealth. On the
other hand, no right-minded person will ignore the desirability and the
duty of judiciously providing the means for a reasonable degree of
comfort and self-respect, with a surplus for the furtherance of human
welfare in general, and the relief of misfortune and suffering. Thrift
is a virtue; greed is a vice. Reasonable possession is a commendable and
necessary object. The unrestrained avarice that today is making cowards
of us all is an unmeasured curse, a world-wide disgrace that threatens
In considering ends of life we cannot ignore those who consider
happiness as adequate. Perhaps there are few who formulate this, but
there are many who seem to give it practical assent. They apparently
conform their lives to this butterfly estimate, and, in the absence of
any other purpose, rest satisfied. Happiness is indeed a desirable
condition, and in the highest sense, where it borders on blessedness,
may be fairly termed "the end and aim of being." But on the lower
stretches of the senses, where it becomes mere enjoyment or pleasure,
largely concerned with amusement and self-indulgence of various sorts,
it becomes parasitic, robbing life of its strength and flavor and
preventing its development and full growth. It is insidious in its
deterioration and omnivorous in its appetite. It tends to habits that
undermine and to the appropriation of a preponderating share of the
valueless things of life. The danger is in the unrestrained appetite, in
intemperance that becomes habit. Pleasure is exhausting of both purse
and mind. We naturally crave pleasant experiences, and we need a certain
amount of relaxation. The danger is in overindulgence and indigestion
resulting in spiritual invalidism. Let us take life sanely, accepting
pleasures gratefully but moderately.
But what _is_ best in life? Why, life itself. Life is opportunity. Here
it is, around us, offered to us. We are free to take what we can or what
we like. We have the great privilege of choice, and life's ministry to
us depends on what we take and what we leave.
We are providentially assigned our place, whatever it is, but in no
fixed sense of its being final and unalterable. The only obligation
implied is that of acceptance until it can be bettered.
Our moral responsibility is limited to our opportunity, and the vital
question is the use we make of it. The great fact of life is that we are
spiritual beings. Religion has to do with soul existence and is the
field of its development. It is concerned primarily with being and
secondly with doing. It is righteousness inspired by love. It is
recognition of our responsibilities to do God's will.
Hence the best life is that which accepts life as opportunity, and
faithfully, happily seeks to make the most of it. It seeks to follow the
right, and to do the best it can, in any circumstances. It accepts all
that life offers, enjoying in moderation its varied gifts, but in
restraint of self-indulgence, and with kindly consideration of others.
It subordinates its impulses to the apprehended will of God, bears
trials with fortitude, and trusts eternal good.
One of the most impressive sights in the natural world is the
difficulties resisted and overcome by a tree in its struggle for life.
On the very summit of the Sentinel Dome, over eight thousand feet above
sea-level, there is rooted in the apparently solid granite a lone pine
two feet in diameter. It is not tall, for its struggle with the wind and
snow has checked its aspirations, but it is sturdy and vigorous, while
the wonder is that it ever established and maintained life at all. Where
it gains its nourishment is not apparent. Disintegrated granite seems a
hard diet, but it suffices, for the determined tree makes the best of
the opportunities offered. Like examples abound wherever a crevice holds
any soil whatever. In a niche of El Capitan, more than a thousand feet
from the valley's floor, grows a tree a hundred feet high. A strong
glass shows a single tree on the crest of Half Dome. Such persistence is
significant, and it enforces a lesson we very much need.
Reason should not be behind instinct in making the most of life. While
man is less rigidly conditioned and may modify his environment, he, too,
may nourish his life by using to the full whatever nutriment is offered.
Lincoln has been characterized as a man who made the most of his life.
Perhaps his greatness consisted mostly in that.
We are inclined to blame conditions and circumstances for failures that
result from our lack of effort. We lack in persistence, we resent
disparity in the distribution of talents, we blink at responsibility,
and are slothful and trifling. Our life is a failure from lack of will.
Who are we that we should complain that life is hard, or conclude that
it is not better so? Why do we covet other opportunities instead of
doing the best with those we have? What is the glory of life but to
accept it with such satisfaction as we can command, to enjoy what we
have a right to, and to use all it offers for its upbuilding and
How evident it is that much more than good intentions is needed in one
who would either maintain self-respect or be of any use in his daily
life! It is not easy to be good, but it is often less easy to be right.
It involves an understanding that presupposes both ability and effort.
Intelligence, thinking, often studious consideration, are necessary to
give a working hypothesis of what is best. It is seldom that anything is
so simple that without careful thought we can be sure that one course is
right and another wrong. Perhaps, after we have weighed all that is
ponderable, we can only determine which seems the better course of
action. Being good may help our judgment. Doing right is the will of
"Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith let us to
the end dare to do our duty as we understand it." Abraham Lincoln had a
marvelous aptitude for condensed statement, and in this compact
sentence from his Cooper Union address expresses the very essence of the
appeal that is made to us today. We can find no more fundamental slogan
and no nobler one.
Whatever the circumstances presented and whatever the immediate result
will be, we are to dare to do our duty as we understand it. And we are
so to dare and so to do in complete faith that right makes might and in
utter disregard of fear that might may triumph. The only basis of true
courage is faith, and our trust must be in right, in good, in God.
We live in a republic that sustains itself through the acceptance by all
of the will of the majority, and to talk of despotism whenever the
authority necessary for efficiency is exercised, and that with
practically unanimous concurrence, is wholly unreasonable. A man who
cannot yield allegiance to the country in which he lives should either
be silent and inactive or go to some country where his sympathy
corresponds with his loyalty.
As years increase we more and more value the personal and individual
element in human life. Character becomes the transcendent interest and
friends are our chief assets. As I approach the end of my story of
memories I feel that the most interesting feature of life has been the
personal. I wish I had given more space to the people I have known.
Fortune has favored me with friends worth mentioning and of
acquaintances, some of whom I must introduce.
Of Horatio Stebbins, the best friend and strongest influence of my life,
I have tried to express my regard in a little book about to be published
by the Houghton Mifflin Company of Boston. It will be procurable from
our San Francisco Unitarian Headquarters. That those who may not see it
may know something of my feeling, I reprint a part of an editorial
written when he died.
The thoughts that cluster around the memory of Horatio Stebbins so fill
the mind that nothing else can be considered until some expression is
made of them, and yet the impossibility of any adequate statement is so
evident that it seems hopeless to begin. The event of his death was not
unexpected. It has been imminent and threatening for years. His
feebleness and the intense suffering of his later days relieve the grief
that must be felt, and there springs by its side gratitude that rest and
peace have come to him. And yet to those who loved him the world seems
not quite the same since he has gone from it. There is an underlying
feeling of something missing, of loss not to be overcome, that must be
borne to the end.
In my early boyhood Horatio Stebbins was "the preacher from
Fitchburg"--original in manner and matter, and impressive even to a boy.
Ten years passed, and our paths met in San Francisco. From the day he
first stood in the historic pulpit as successor of that gifted preacher
and patriot, Starr King, till his removal to Cambridge, few
opportunities for hearing him were neglected by me. His influence was a
great blessing, association with him a delight, his example an
inspiration, and his love the richest of undeserved treasures.
Dr. Stebbins was ever the kindliest of men, and his friendliness and
consideration were not confined to his social equals. Without
condescension, he always had a kind word for the humblest people. He was
as gentlemanly and courteous to a hackdriver as he would be to a college
president. None ever heard him speak severely or impatiently to a
servant. He was considerate by nature, and patient from very largeness.
He never harbored an injury, and by his generosity and apparent
obliviousness or forgetfulness of the unpleasant past he often put to
shame those who had wronged him. He was at times stern, and was always
fearless in uttering what he felt to be the truth, whether it was to
meet with favor or with disapproval from his hearers.
As a friend he was loyalty itself, and for the slightest service he was
deeply appreciative and grateful. He was the most charitable of men, and
was not ashamed to admit that he had often been imposed upon.
Of his rank as a thinker and a preacher I am not a qualified judge, but
he surely was great of heart and strong of mind. He was a man of
profound faith, and deeply religious in a strong, manly way. He inspired
others by his trust and his unquestioned belief in the reality of
spiritual things. He never did anything for effect; his words fell from
his lips in tones of wonderful beauty to express the thought and feeling
that glowed within.
Noble man, great preacher, loving friend! thou art not dead, but
translated to that higher life of which no doubt ever entered thy
Horace Davis was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, on March 16, 1831.
His father was John Davis, who served as Governor of Massachusetts and
as United States Senator. His mother was the daughter of Rev. Aaron
Bancroft, one of the pioneers of the Unitarian ministry.
Horace Davis graduated at Harvard in the class of 1849. He began the
study of the law, but his eyes failed, and in 1852 he came to California
to seek his fortune. He first tried the mines, starting a store at
Shaw's Flat. When the venture failed he came to San Francisco and sought
any employment to be found. He began by piling lumber, but when his
cousin, Isaac Davis, found him at it he put him aboard one of his
coasting schooners as supercargo. Being faithful and capable, he was
sought by the Pacific Mail Steamship Company, and was for several years
a good purser. He and his brother George had loaned their savings to a
miller, and were forced to take over the property. Mr. Davis become the
accepted authority on wheat and the production of flour, and enjoyed
more than forty years of leadership in the business which he
He was always a public-spirited citizen, and in 1877 was elected to
Congress, serving for two terms. He proved too independent and
unmanageable for the political leaders of the time and was allowed to
return to private life.
In 1887 he was urged to accept the presidency of the University of
California, and for three years he discharged the duties of the office
His interest in education was always great, and he entered with ardor
and intelligence into the discharge of his duties as a trustee of the
School of Mechanical Arts established by the will of James Lick. As
president of the board, he guided its course, and was responsible for
the large plan for co-operation and co-ordination by which, with the
Wilmerding School and the Lux School (of which he was also a leading
trustee), a really great endowed industrial school under one
administrative management has been built up in San Francisco. A large
part of his energy was devoted to this end, and it became the strongest
desire of his life to see it firmly established. He also served for many
years as a trustee for Stanford University, and for a time was president
of the board. To the day of his death (in July, 1916) he was active in
the affairs of Stanford, and was also deeply interested in the
University of California. The degree of LL.D. was conferred by the
University of the Pacific, by Harvard, and by the University of
From his earliest residence in San Francisco he was a loyal and devoted
supporter of the First Unitarian Church and of its Sunday-school. For
over sixty years he had charge of the Bible-class, and his influence for
spiritual and practical Christianity has been very great. He gave
himself unsparingly for the cause of religious education, and never
failed to prepare himself for his weekly ministration. For eight years
he served on the board of trustees of the church and for seven years was
moderator of the board.
Under the will of Captain Hinckley he was made a trustee of the William
and Alice Hinckley Fund, and for thirty-seven years took an active
interest in its administration. At the time of his death he was its
president. He was deeply interested in the Pacific Unitarian School for
the Ministry, and contributed munificently to its foundation and
Mr. Davis preserved his youth by the breadth of his sympathies. He
seemed to have something in common with everyone he met; was young with
the young. In his talks to college classes he was always happy, with a
simplicity and directness that attracted close attention, and a sense of
humor that lighted up his address.
His domestic life was very happy. His first wife, the daughter of
Captain Macondray, for many years an invalid, died in 1872. In 1875 he
married Edith King, the only daughter of Thomas Starr King, a woman of
rare personal gifts, who devoted her life to his welfare and happiness.
She died suddenly in 1909. Mr. Davis, left alone, went steadily on. His
books were his constant companions and his friends were always welcome.
He would not own that he was lonely. He kept occupied; he had his round
of duties, attending to his affairs, and the administration of various
benevolent trusts, and he had a large capacity for simple enjoyments.
He read good books; he was hospitably inclined; he kept in touch with
his old associates; he liked to meet them at luncheon at the University
Club or at the monthly dinner of the Chit-Chat Club, which he had seldom
missed in thirty-nine years of membership. He was punctilious in the
preparation of his biennial papers, always giving something of interest
and value. His intellectual interest was wide. He was a close student of
Shakespeare, and years ago printed a modest volume on the Sonnets. He
also published a fine study of the Ministry of Jesus, and a
discriminating review of the American Constitutions.
Mr. Davis was a man of profound religious feeling. He said little of it,
but it was a large part of his life. On his desk was a volume of Dr.
Stebbins' prayers, the daily use of which had led to the reading again
and again of the book he very deeply cherished.
He was the most loyal of friends--patient, appreciative beyond deserts,
kindly, and just. The influence for good of such a man is incalculable.
One who makes no pretense of virtue, but simply lives uprightly as a
matter of course, who is genuine and sound, who does nothing for effect,
who shows simple tastes, and is not greedy for possessions, but who
looks out for himself and his belongings in a prudent, self-respecting
way, who takes what comes without complaint, who believes in the good
and shows it by his daily course, who is never violent and desperate,
but calmly tries to do his part to make his fellows happier and the
world better, who trusts in God and cheerfully bears the trials that
come, who holds on to life and its opportunities, without repining if he
be left to walk alone, and who faces death with the confidence of a
child who trusts in a Father's love and care--such a man is blessed
himself and is a blessing to his fellow-men.
A MEMORY OF EMERSON
In 1871 Ralph Waldo Emerson visited California. He was accompanied by
his daughter Ellen, and seemed thoroughly to enjoy the new scenes and
new experiences. He visited the Yosemite Valley and other points of
interest, and was persuaded to deliver a number of lectures. His first
appearance before a California audience was at the Unitarian church,
then in Geary Street near Stockton, on a Sunday evening, when he read
his remarkable essay on "Immortality," wherein he spoke of people who
talk of eternity and yet do not know what to do with a day. The church
was completely filled and the interest to hear him seemed so great that
it was determined to secure some week-day lectures if possible. In
company with Horace Davis, who enjoyed his acquaintance, I called on him
at the Occidental Hotel. He was the most approachable of men--as simple
and kindly in his manner as could be imagined, and putting one at ease
with that happy faculty which only a true gentleman possesses.
[Illustration: HORACE DAVIS--FIFTY YEARS A FRIEND]
[Illustration: HARVARD UNIVERSITY WHEN HE ENTERED]
His features are familiar from the many published pictures, but no one
who had not met his smiling eyes can realize the charm of his
His talk was delightfully genial. I asked him if his journey had been
wearisome. "Not at all," he replied; "I have enjoyed it all." The
scenery seemed to have impressed him deeply. "When one crosses your
mountains," he said, "and sees their wonderful arches, one discovers how
architecture came to be invented." When asked if he could favor us with
some lectures, he smiled and said: "Well, my daughter thought you might
want something of that kind, and put a few in my trunk, in case of an
emergency." When it came to dates, it was found that he was to leave the
next day for a short trip to the Geysers, and it was difficult to
arrange the course of three, which had been fixed upon, after his
return. It was about eleven o'clock when we called. I asked him if he
could give us one of the lectures that evening. He smiled and said, "Oh,
yes," adding, "I don't know what you can do here, but in Boston we could
not expect to get an audience on such short notice." We assured him that
we felt confident in taking the chances on that. Going at once to the
office of the _Evening Bulletin,_ we arranged for a good local notice,
and soon had a number of small boys distributing announcements in the
The audience was a good one in point of numbers, and a pleased and
interested one. His peculiar manner of reading a few pages, and then
shuffling his papers, as though they were inextricably mixed, was
embarrassing at first, but when it was found that he was not disturbed
by it, and that it was not the result of an accident, but a
characteristic manner of delivery, the audience withheld its sympathy
and rather enjoyed the novelty and the feeling of uncertainty as to what
would come next. One little incident of the lecture occasioned an
admiring smile. A small bunch of flowers had been placed on the
reading-desk, and by some means, in one of his shuffles, they were
tipped over and fell forward to the floor. Not at all disconcerted, he
skipped nimbly out of the pulpit, picked up the flowers, put them back
in the vase, replaced it on the desk, and went on with the lecture as
though nothing had happened.
He was much interested in the twenty-dollar gold pieces in which he was
paid, never before having met with that form of money. His encouraging
friendliness of manner quite removed any feeling that a great man's time
was being wasted through one's intercourse. He gossiped pleasantly of
men and things as though talking with an equal. On one occasion he
seemed greatly to enjoy recounting how cleverly James Russell Lowell
imitated Alfred Tennyson's reading of his own poems. Over the
Sunday-school of our church Starr King had provided a small room where
he could retire and gain seclusion. It pleased Emerson. He said, "I
think I should enjoy a study beyond the orbit of the servant girl." He
was as self-effacing a man as I ever knew, and the most agreeable to
After his return from his short trip he gave two or three more lectures,
with a somewhat diminishing attendance. Dr. Stebbins remarked in
explanation, "I thought the people would tire in the sockets of their
wings if they attempted to follow _him_."
At this distance, I can remember little that he said, but no distance of
time or space can ever dim the delight I felt in meeting him, or the
impression formed of a most attractive, penetrating, and inspiring
His kindliness and geniality were unbounded. During our arrangement of
dates Mr. Davis smiled as he said of one suggested by Mr. Emerson, "That
would not be convenient for Mr. Murdock, for it is the evening of his
wedding." He did not forget it. After the lecture, a few days later, he
turned to me and asked, "Is she here?" When I brought my flattered wife,
he chatted with her familiarly, asking where she had lived before coming
to California, and placing her wholly at ease.
Every tone of his voice and every glance of his eye suggested the most
absolute serenity. He seemed the personification of calm wisdom. Nothing
disturbed him, nothing depressed him. He was as serene and unruffled as
a morning in June. He radiated kindliness from a heart at peace with all
mankind. His gentleness of manner was an illustration of the possibility
of beauty in conduct. He was wholly self-possessed--to imagine him in a
passion would be impossible. His word was searching, but its power was
that of the sunbeam and not of the blast. He was above all teapot
tempests, a strong, tender, fearless, trustful _man_.
JULIA WARD HOWE
Julia Ward Howe is something more than a noble memory. She has left her
impress on her time, and given a new significance to womanhood. To hear
the perfect music of the voice of so cultivated a woman is something of
an education, and to have learned how gracious and kindly a great nature
really is, is an experience well worth cherishing. Mrs. Howe was
wonderfully alive to a wide range of interests--many-sided and
sympathetic. She could take the place of a minister and speak
effectively from deep conviction and a wide experience, or talk simply
and charmingly to a group of school-children.
When some years later than her San Francisco visit she spoke at a King's
Chapel meeting in Boston, growing feebleness was apparent, but the same
gracious spirit was undimmed. Later pictures have been somewhat
pathetic. We do not enjoy being reminded of mortality in those of
pre-eminent spirit, but what a span of events and changes her life
records, and what a part in it all she had borne! When one ponders on
the inspiring effect of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, and of the arms
it nerved and the hearts it strengthened, and on the direct blows she
struck for the emancipation of woman, it seems that there has been
abundant answer to her prayer,
"As He died to make men holy,
Let us die to make men free."
TIMOTHY H. REARDEN
In glancing back, I can think of no more charming man than Timothy
Rearden. He had a most attractive personality, combining rare
intelligence and kindly affection with humor and a modesty that left him
almost shy. He was scholarly and brilliant, especially in literature
and languages. His essays and studies in Greek attracted
world-acknowledgment, but at home he was known chiefly as a genial,
self-effacing lawyer, not ambitious for a large practice and oblivious
of position, but happy in his friends and in delving deep into whatever
topic in the world of letters engaged his interest.
He was born in Ohio in 1839 and graduated from the Cleveland High School
and from Kenyon College. He served in the Civil War and came to
California in 1866. He was a fellow-worker with Bret Harte in the Mint,
and also on the _Overland Monthly_, contributing "Favoring Female
Conventualism" to the first number. He was a sound lawyer, but hid with
his elders until 1872, when he opened his own office. He was not a
pusher, but his associates respected and loved him, so that when in 1883
the governor was called upon to appoint a judge, and, embarrassed by the
number of candidates, he called upon the Bar Association to recommend
someone, they took a vote and two-thirds of them named Rearden. He
served on the bench for eight years.
He was a favorite member of the Chit-Chat Club for many years and wrote
many brilliant essays, a volume of which was printed in 1893. The first
two he gave were "Francis Petrarch" and "Burning Sappho." Among the most
charming was "Ballads and Lyrics," which was illustrated by the equally
charming singing of representative selections by Mrs. Ida Norton, the
only time in its history when the club was invaded by a woman. Its
outside repetition was clamored for, and as the Judge found a good
excuse in his position and its requirements, he loaned the paper and I
had the pleasure of substituting for him.
When I was a candidate for the legislature he issued a card that was a
departure from political methods. It was during the time when all the
names were submitted on the ballot and voters crossed off those they did
not want to win. He sent his friends a neat card, as follows:
CHARLES A. MURDOCK
(_Of C.A. Murdock & Co., 532 Clay Street_)
IS ONE OF THE REPUBLICAN CANDIDATES
FOR THE ASSEMBLY FROM THE TENTH
If you prefer any candidate on any other ticket, scratch Murdock.
If you require any pledge other than that he will vote according to
his honest convictions, scratch Murdock.
His friend, Ambrose Bierce, spoke of him as the most scholarly man on
the Pacific Coast. He was surely among the most modest and affectionate.
He had remarkable poetic gifts. In 1892 the Thomas Post of the Grand
Army of the Republic held a memorial service, and he contributed a poem
"Life's fevered day declines; its purple twilight falling
Draws length'ning shadows from the broken flanks;
And from the column's head a viewless chief is calling:
'Guide right; close up your ranks!'"
He was ill when it was read. A week from the day of the meeting the
happy, well-loved man breathed his last.
John Muir, naturalist, enthusiast, writer, glorifier of the Sierras, is
held in affectionate memory the world over, but especially in
California, where he was known as a delightful personality. Real
pleasure and a good understanding of his nature and quality await those
who read of the meeting of Emerson and Muir in the Yosemite in 1871. It
is recorded in their diaries. He was a very rare and versatile man. It
was my good fortune to sit by him at a dinner on his return from Alaska,
where he had studied its glaciers, and had incidentally been honored by
having its most characteristic one named after him. He was tremendously
impressed by the wonder and majesty of what he had seen, but it in no
wise dimmed his enthusiasm for the beauty and glory of the Sierra
Nevada. In speaking of the exquisite loveliness of a mountain meadow he
exclaimed: "I could conceive it no punishment to be staked out for a
thousand years on one of those meadows." His tales of experiences in the
High Sierra, where he spent days alone and unarmed, with nothing but tea
and a few breadcrusts to sustain him, were most thrilling.
I was afterward charmed by his sketch of an adventure with a dog called
"Stickeen," on one of the great Alaskan glaciers, and, meeting him,
urged that he make a little book of it. He was pleased and told me he
had just done it. Late in life he was shocked at what he considered the
desecration of the Hetch-Hetchy Valley by the city of San Francisco,
which sought to dam it and form a great lake that should forever furnish
a supply of water and power. He came to my office to supervise the
publication of the _Sierra Club Bulletin_, and we had a spirited but
friendly discussion of the matter, I being much interested as a
supervisor of the city. As a climax he exclaimed, "Why, if San Francisco
ever gets the Hetch-Hetchy I shall _swear_, even if I am in heaven."
GEORGE HOLMES HOWISON
Among the many beneficent acts of Horatio Stebbins in his distinguished
ministry in San Francisco was his influence in the establishment of the
chair of Moral Philosophy in the University of California. It was the
gift of D.O. Mills, who provided the endowment on the advice of Dr.
Stebbins. The first occupant appointed was Professor Howison, who from
1884 to 1912 happily held a fruitful term. He was admirably fitted for
his duties, and with the added influence of the Philosophical Union
contributed much to the value of the university. A genial and kindly
man, with a keen sense of humor, he was universally and deeply respected
by the students and by his associates. He made philosophy almost
popular, and could differ utterly from others without any of the common
results of antagonism, for he generated so much more light than heat.
His mind was so stored that when he began to speak there seemed to be no
reason aside from discretion why he should ever stop.
I enjoyed to the full one little business incident with him. In my
publications I followed a somewhat severe style of typography,
especially priding myself on the possession of a complete series of
genuine old-style faces cast in Philadelphia from moulds cut a hundred
and seventy years ago. In these latter days a few bold men have tried to
improve on this classic. One Ronaldson especially departed from the
simplicity and dignity of the cut approved by Caxton, Aldus, and
Elzevir, and substituted for the beautiful terminal of, say the capital
T, two ridiculous curled points. I resented it passionately, and
frequently remarked that a printer who would use Ronaldson old-style
would not hesitate to eat his pie with a knife. One day Professor
Howison (I think his dog "Socrates" was with him) came into my office
and inquired if I had a cut of old-style type that had curved terminals
on the capital Ts. I had no idea why he asked the question; I might have
supposed that he wanted the face, but I replied somewhat warmly that I
had not, that I had never allowed it in the shop, to which he replied
with a chuckle, "Good! I was afraid I might get them."
Professor Howison furnished one of the best stories of the great
earthquake of 1906. In common with most people, he was in bed at
fourteen minutes past five on the 18th of April. While victims generally
arose and dressed more or less, the Professor calmly remained between
the sheets, concluding that if he was to die the bed would be the most
fitting and convenient place to be in. It took more than a full-grown
earthquake to disturb his philosophy.
It is doubtful if any son of California has won greater recognition than
Josiah Royce, born in Grass Valley in November, 1855. In 1875 he
graduated at the University of California. After gaining his Ph.D. at
Johns Hopkins, he returned to his _alma mater_ and for four years was
instructor in English literature and logic.
He joined the Chit-Chat Club in 1879 and continued a member until his
removal to Harvard in 1882. He was a brilliant and devoted member, with
a whimsical wit and entire indifference to fit of clothes and general
personal appearance. He was eminently good-natured and a very clever
debater. With all the honors heaped upon him, he never forgot his
youthful associates. At a reunion held in 1916 he sent this friendly
message to the club: "Have warmest memories of olden time. Send
heartiest greetings to all my fellow members. I used to be a long-winded
speaker in Chit-Chat, but my love far outlasts my speeches. You inspired
my youth. You make my older years glow."
In my youthful complacency I had the audacity to print an essay on "The
Policy of Protection," taking issue with most of my brother members,
college men and free-traders. Later, while on a visit to California, he
told me, with a twinkle in his eye, "I am using your book at Harvard as
an example of logic."
He died honored everywhere as America's greatest philosopher, one of the
world's foremost thinkers, and withal a very lovable man.
CHARLES GORDON AMES
In the early days Rev. Charles Gordon Ames preached for a time in Santa
Cruz. Later he removed to San Jose, and occasionally addressed San
Francisco audiences. He was original and witty and was in demand for
special occasions. In an address at a commencement day at Berkeley, I
heard him express his wonder at being called upon, since he had
matriculated at a wood-pile and graduated in a printing-office. Several
years after he had returned East I was walking with him in Boston. We
met one of his friends, who said, "How are you, Ames?" "Why, I'm still
at large, and have lucid intervals," replied the witty preacher. He once
told me of an early experience in candidating. He was asked to preach in
Worcester, where there was a vacancy. Next day he met a friend who told
him the results, saying: "You seem to have been fortunate in satisfying
both the radicals and the conservatives. But your language was something
of a surprise; it does not follow the usual Harvard type, and does not
seem ministerial. You used unaccustomed illustrations. You spoke of
something being as slow as molasses. Now, so far as I know, molasses is
not a scriptural word. Honey is mentioned in the Bible, but not
The passing of Joaquin Miller removed from California her most
picturesque figure. In his three-score and twelve years he found wide
experience, and while his garb and habits were somewhat theatrical he
was a strong character and a poet of power. In some respects he was more
like Walt Whitman than any other American poet, and in vigor and grasp
was perhaps his equal. Of California authors he is the last of the
acknowledged leading three, Harte and Clemens completing the group. For
many years he lived with his wife and daughter at "The Heights," in the
foothills back of Oakland, writing infrequently, but with power and
insight. His "Columbus" will probably be conceded to be his finest poem,
and one of the most perfect in the language. He held his faculties till
the last, writing a few days before his death a tender message of faith
in the eternal.
With strong unconventionality and a somewhat abrupt manner, he was
genial and kindly in his feelings, with warm affections and great
An amusing incident of many years ago comes back to freshen his memory.
An entertainment of a social character was given at the Oakland
Unitarian church, and when my turn came for a brief paper on wit and
humor I found that Joaquin Miller sat near me on the platform. As an
illustration of parody, bordering on burlesque, I introduced a Miller
imitation--the story of a frontiersman on an Arizona desert accompanied
by a native woman of "bare, brown beauty," and overtaken by heat so
intense that but one could live, whereupon, to preserve the superior
race, he seized a huge rock and
"Crushed with fearful blow
Her well-poised head."
It was highly audacious, and but for a youthful pride of authorship and
some curiosity as to how he would take it I should have omitted it.
Friends in the audience told me that the way in which I watched him from
the corner of my eye was the most humorous thing in the paper. At the
beginning his head was bowed, and for some time he showed no emotion of
any sort, but as I went on and it grew worse and worse, he gave way to a
burst of merriment and I saw that I was saved.
I was gratified then, and his kindliness brings a little glow of
good-will--that softens my farewell.
Of Mark Twain my memory is confined to two brief views, both before he
had achieved his fame. One was hearing him tell a story with his
inimitable drawl, as he stood smoking in front of a Montgomery Street
cigar-store, and the other when on his return from a voyage to the
Hawaiian Islands he delivered his famous lecture at the Academy of
Music. It was a marvelous address, in which with apparently no effort he
led his audience to heights of appreciative enthusiasm in the most
felicitous description of the beautiful and wonderful things he had
seen, and then dropped them from the sublime to the ridiculous by some
absurd reference or surprisingly humorous reflection.
The sharp contrast between his incomparably beautiful word paintings and
his ludicrous humor was characteristic of two sides of the waggish
newspaper reporter who developed into a good deal of a philosopher and
the first humorist of his time.
SHELDON GAYLORD KELLOGG
Among my nearest friends I am proud to count Sheldon G. Kellogg,
associated through both the Unitarian church, the Sunday-school, and the
Chit-Chat Club. He was a lawyer with a large and serviceable conscience
as well as a well-trained mind. He grew to manhood in the Middle West,
graduated in a small Methodist college, and studied deeply in Germany.
He came to San Francisco, establishing himself in practice without
acquaintance, and by sheer ability and character compelled success. His
integrity and thoroughness were beyond any question. He went to the root
of any matter that arose. He was remarkably well read and a passionate
lover of books. He was exact and accurate in his large store of
information. Dr. Stebbins, in his delightful extravagance, once said to
Mrs. Kellogg, "Your husband is the only man I'm afraid of--he knows so
much." At the Chit-Chat no one dared to hazard a doubtful statement of
fact. If it was not so, Kellogg would know it. He was the most modest of
men and would almost hesitate to quote the last census report to set us
right, but such was our respect for him that his statements were never
questioned; he inspired complete confidence. I remember an occasion when
the Supreme Court of the state, or a department of it, had rendered an
opinion setting aside a certain sum as the share of certain trustees.
Kellogg was our attorney. He studied the facts and the decision until he
was perfectly sure the court had erred and that he could convince them
of it. We applied for a hearing in bank and he was completely sustained.
Kellogg was an eminently fair man. He took part in a political
convention on one occasion and was elected chairman. There was a bitter
fight between contending factions, but Kellogg was so just in his
rulings that both sides were satisfied and counted him friendly.
He was a lovable personality and the embodiment of honor. He was
studious and scholarly and always justified our expectation of an able,
valuable paper on whatever topic he treated. I do not recall that in all
my experience I have ever known any other man so unreservedly and
It is a salutary experience to see the power of goodness, to know a man
whose loveliness of life and character exerts an influence beyond the
reach of great intellectual gift or conscious effort. Joseph Worcester
was a modest, shrinking Swedenborgian minister. His congregation was a
handful of refined mystics who took no prominent part in public affairs
and were quiet and unobtrusive citizens. He was not attractive as a
preacher, his voice trembled with emotion and bashfulness, and he read
with difficulty. He was painfully shy, and he was oppressed and suffered
in a crowd. He was unmarried and lived by himself in great simplicity.
He seemed to sustain generally good health on tea, toast, and marmalade,
which at noonday he often shared with his friend William Keith, the
He was essentially the gentle man. In public speaking his voice never
rang out with indignation. He preserved the conversational tone and
seemed devoid of passion and severity. He was patient, kind, and loving.
He had humor, and a pleasant smile generally lighted up his benignant
countenance. He was often playfully indignant. I remember that at one
time an aesthetic character named Russell addressed gatherings of
society people advising them what they should throw out of their
over-furnished rooms. In conversation with Mr. Worcester I asked him how
he felt about it. He replied, "I know what I should throw out--Mr.
Russell." It was so incongruous to think of the violence implied in Mr.
Worcester's throwing out anything that it provoked a hearty laugh. Yet
there was no weakness in his kindliness. He was simply "slow to wrath,"
not acquiescent with wrong. His strength was not that of the storm, but
of the genial shower and the smiling sun. His heart was full of love and
everybody loved him. His hold was through the affections and his
blissful unselfishness. He seemed never to think of himself at all.
He thought very effectually of others. He was helpfulness incarnate, and
since he was influential, surprising results followed. He was fond of
children and gave much time to the inmates of the Protestant Orphan
Asylum, conducting services and reading to them. They grew very fond of
him, and his influence on them was naturally great. He was much
interested in the education of the boys and in their finding normal
life. He took up especially the providing for them of a home where they
could live happily and profitably while pursuing a course of study in
the California School of Mechanical Arts. An incident of his efforts in
their behalf illustrates what an influence he had gained in the
community. A young man of wealth, not a member of his congregation and
not considered a philanthropist, but conversant with what Mr. Worcester
was doing and hoped to do, called upon him one day and said: "Mr.
Worcester, here is a key that I wish to leave with you. I have taken a
safe-deposit box; it has two keys. One I will keep to open the box and
put in bonds from time to time, and the other I give you that you may
open it and use coupons or bonds in carrying out your plans for helping
the boys." This illustrates how he was loved and what good he provoked
in others. Without knowing it or seeking it he was a great community
influence. He was gifted of the Spirit. He had beauty of character,
simplicity, unselfishness, love of God and his fellow-men. His special
beliefs interested few, his life gave life, his goodness was radiant. He
drew all men to him by his love, and he showed them the way.
FREDERICK LUCIAN HOSMER
I cannot forego the pleasure of referring with sincere affection to my
brother octogenarian, Frederick L. Hosmer. He achieved the fullness of
honor two months in advance of me, which is wholly fitting, since we are
much farther separated in every other regard. He has been a leader for
a great many years, and I am proud to be in sight of him.
His kindly friendship has long been one of the delights of my life, and
I have long entertained the greatest respect and admiration for his
ability and quality. As a writer of hymns he has won the first place in
the world's esteem, and probably his noble verse is (after the Psalms)
the most universally used expression of the religious feeling of
mankind. More worshipers unite in singing his hymns, Unitarian though he
be, than those of any other man, living or dead. It is a great
distinction, and in meriting it he holds enviable rank as one of the
world's greatest benefactors.
Yet he remains the most modest of men, with no apparent consciousness
that he is great. His humility is an added charm and his geniality is
He has made the most of a fancied resemblance to me, and in many
delightful ways has indulged in pleasantries based on it. In my room
hangs a framed photograph signed "Faithfully yours, Chas. A. Murdock."
It is far better-looking than I ever was--but that makes no difference.
We were once at a conference at Seattle. He said with all seriousness,
"Murdock, I want you to understand that I intend to exercise great
circumspection in my conduct, and I rely upon you to do the same."
I greatly enjoyed Dr. Hosmer's party, with its eighty candles, and I
was made happy that he could be at mine and nibble my cake. Not all good
and great men are so thoroughly lovable.
THOMAS LAMB ELIOT
When Horatio Stebbins in 1864 assumed charge of the San Francisco church
he was the sole representative of the denomination on the Pacific Coast.
For years he stood alone,--a beacon-like tower of liberalism. The first
glimmer of companionship came from Portland, Oregon. At the solicitation
of a few earnest Unitarians Dr. Stebbins went to Portland to consult
with and encourage them. A society was formed to prepare the way for a
church. A few consecrated women worked devotedly; they bought a lot in
the edge of the woods and finally built a small chapel. Then they moved
for a minister. In St. Louis, Mo., Rev. William Greenleaf Eliot had been
for many years a force in religion and education. A strong Unitarian
church and Washington University resulted. He had also founded a family
and had inspired sons to follow in his footsteps. Thomas Lamb Eliot had
been ordained and was ready for the ministry. He was asked to take the
Portland church and he accepted. He came first to San Francisco on his
way. Dr. Stebbins was trying the experiment of holding services in the
Metropolitan Theater, and I remember seeing in the stage box one Sunday
a very prepossessing couple that interested me much--they were the
Eliots on their way to Portland. William G., Jr., was an infant-in-arms.
I was much impressed with the spirit that moved the attractive couple to
venture into an unknown field. The acquaintance formed grew into a
friendship that has deepened with the years.
The ministry of the son in Portland has been much like that of the
father in St. Louis. The church has been reverent and constructive, a
steady force for righteousness, an influence for good in personal life
and community welfare. Dr. Eliot has fostered many interests, but the
church has been foremost. He has always been greatly respected and
influential. Dr. Stebbins entertained for him the highest regard. He was
wont to say: "Thomas Eliot is the wisest man for his years I ever knew."
He has always been that and more to me. He has served one parish all his
life, winning and holding the reverent regard of the whole community.
The active service of the church has passed to his son and for years he
has given most of his time and strength to Reed College, established by
his parishioners. In a few months he will complete his eighty years of
beautiful life and noble service. He has kept the faith and passed on
the fine spirit of his inheritance.
I have not been much of a traveler abroad, or even beyond the Pacific
states. I have been to the Atlantic shore four times since my emigration
thence, and going or coming I visited Chicago, St. Louis, Denver, and
other points, but have no striking memories of any of them. In 1914 I
had a very delightful visit to the Hawaiian Islands, including the
volcano. It was full of interest and charm, with a beauty and an
atmosphere all its own; but any description, or the story of experiences
or impressions, would but re-echo what has been told adequately by
others. British Columbia and western Washington I found full of interest
and greatly enjoyed; but they also must be left unsung. My outings from
my beaten track have been brief, but have contributed a large stock of
happy memories. Camping in California is a joy that never palls, and
among the pleasantest pictures on memory's walls are the companionship
of congenial friends in the beautiful surroundings afforded by the Santa
Cruz Mountains. Twice in all the years since leaving Humboldt have I
revisited its hospitable shores and its most impressive redwoods. My
love for it will never grow less. Twice, too, have I reveled in the
Yosemite Valley and beyond to the valley that will form a majestic
I am thankful for the opportunity I have enjoyed of seeing so fully the
great Pacific empire. My church supervision included California, Oregon,
and Washington, with the southern fringe of Canada for good measure.
Even without this attractive neighbor my territory was larger than
France (or Germany) and Belgium, England, Wales, and Ireland combined.
San Diego, Bellingham, and Spokane were the triangle of bright stars
that bounded the constellation. To have found friends and to be sure of
a welcome at all of these and everywhere between was a great extension
to my enjoyment, and visiting them was not only a pleasant duty but a
IN THE SIERRAS
Belated vacations perhaps gain more than they lose, and in the sum total
at least hold their own. It is one advantage of being well distributed
that opportunities increase. In that an individual is an unsalaried
editor, extensive or expensive trips are unthinkable; that his calling
affords necessities but a scant allowance of luxuries, leaves recreation
in the Sierras out of the question; but that by the accidents of
politics he happens to be a supervisor, certain privileges, disguised
attractively as duties, prove too alluring to resist.
The city had an option on certain remote lands supposed to be of great
value for water and power, and no one wants to buy a pig of that size in
a poke, so it was ordained that the city fathers, with their engineer
and various clerks and functionaries entitled to a vacation and desiring
information (or _vice versa_), should visit the lands proposed to be
In 1908 the supervisors inspected the dam-sites at Lake Eleanor and the
Hetch-Hetchy, but gained little idea of the intervening country and the
route of the water on its way to the city. Subsequently the trip was
more thoroughly planned and the result was satisfactory, both in the end
attained and in the incidental process.
On the morning of August 17, 1910, the party of seventeen disembarked
from the Stockton boat, followed by four fine municipal automobiles.
When the men and the machines were satisfactorily supplied with fuel and
the outfit was appropriately photographed, the procession started
mountainward. For some time the good roads, fairly well watered, passed
over level, fruitful country, with comfortable homes. Then came gently
rolling land and soon the foothills, with gravelly soil and scattered
pines. A few orchards and ranches were passed, but not much that was
really attractive. Then we reached the scenes of early-day mining and
half-deserted towns known to Bret Harte and the days of gold. Knight's
Ferry became a memory instead of a name. Chinese Camp, once harboring
thousands, is now a handful of houses and a few lonely stores and
saloons. It had cast sixty-five votes a few days before our visit.
Then came a stratum of mills and mines, mostly deserted, a few operating
sufficiently to discolor with the crushed mineral the streams flowing
by. Soon we reached the Tuolumne, with clear, pellucid water in limited
quantities, for the snow was not very plentiful the previous winter and
it melted early.
Following its banks for a time, the road turned to climb a hill, and
well along in the afternoon we reached "Priests," a favorite roadhouse
of the early stage line to the Yosemite. Here a good dinner was enjoyed,
the machines were overhauled, and on we went. Then Big Oak Flat, a
mining town of some importance, was passed, and a few miles farther
Groveland, where a quite active community turned out en masse to welcome
the distinguished travelers. The day's work was done and the citizens
showed a pathetic interest which testified to how little ordinarily
happened. The shades of night were well down when Hamilton's was
reached--a stopping-place once well known, but now off the line of
travel. Here we were hospitably entertained and slept soundly after a
full day's exercise. In the memory of all, perhaps the abundance of
fried chicken for breakfast stands out as the distinguishing feature. A
few will always remember it as the spot where for the first time they
found themselves aboard a horse, and no kind chronicler would refer to
which side of the animal they selected for the ascent. The municipally
chartered pack-train, with cooks and supplies for man and beast,
numbered over sixty animals, and chaparejos and cowboys, real and near,
The ride to the rim of the South Fork of the Tuolumne was short. The new
trail was not sufficiently settled to be safe for the sharp descents,
and for three-quarters of a mile the horses and mules were turned loose
and the company dropped down the mountainside on foot. The lovely stream
of water running between mountainous, wooded banks was followed up for
About midday a charming spot for luncheon was found, where Corral Creek
tumbles in a fine cascade on its way to the river. The day was warm, and
when the mouth of Eleanor Creek was reached many enjoyed a good swim in
an attractive deep basin.
Turning to the north, the bank of Eleanor was followed to the first
camping-place, Plum Flat, an attractive clearing, where wild plums have
been augmented by fruit and vegetables. Here, after a good dinner served
in the open by the municipal cooks, the municipal sleeping-bags were
distributed, and soft and level spots were sought for their spreading.
The seasoned campers were happy and enjoyed the luxury. Some who for the