Page images

"The muffled drum's sad roll lias beat

The soldier's last tattoo;
No more on life's parade shall meet
That brave and fallen few.

"On Fame's eternal camping ground

Their silent tents are spread,
But Glory guards, with solemn round,
The bivouac of the dead."

Finally, we thank you all, for coming to rejoice with us in our gladness, that one of our own sons, his youth and early manhood invigorated by the pure air of our hills and valleys, taught industry, economy, perseverance, and endurance by our rugged soil, panoplied in all the strong virtues that are born of the honest toil, plain living, .and high thinking, of New England country life, has gone down into the mart of trade, and, with the help of his companion, schooled in the same virtues, has won success, and with its fruits endowed his native town with yonder noble structure, which stands with its silent teachers, waiting to be dedicated to the service of humanity, in this and all coming ages of the Commonwealth.

He has not founded an institution that is mortgaged to the dead past, and condemned to teach forever some political, religious, or social theory, that science and untrammeled thought may explode ere its walls have gathered the vestiges of time; but has so wisely provided for the selection of its volumes by the representatives of the people, that its teachings may be moulded by the best thought of each suceeding age, ever higher, and wiser, and better than that of its predecessor, as the race moves on to its nobler destiny.

Rich as this gift is, one of its most precious values is the fact that Acton's own son gives it to her, and that the memory of such a son is hers to cherish with grateful pride forever.

In the shock and clash of conflicting classes and interests, when it almost seems that that wild dream of Bellamy must needs become a reality, it is an omen of good that men are coming more and more to recognize the great truth underlying all true Christianity and wise government, that great wealth is a public trust, which imposes on its custodian the duty of devoting it, not to selfish gratification, and ostentatious display, but to the uplifting of humanity, and by so doing put off, so far as may be, the need of the coming of that day when the rivers of the nation's wealth will, by judicious laws, be silently and gradually turned aside from those channels that build up colossal fortunes, and taught to flow in beneficent rills by the side of the honest toiler's humble home.

But I must give way to one whose speech is golden, for he is the founder and donor of Acton's Memorial Library, the Hon. Wm. A. Wilde, of Maiden.

presentation of 23uiloing, oBrounfcg, ano


Ladies and Gentlemen and Members of Isaac Davis Post, Grrand Army of the Republic:

One of our own poets has truly said: —

"We may build more splendid habitations,
Fill our rooms with paintings and with sculptures,

But we cannot
Buy with gold the old associations."

Never do I come to Acton — drive through these roads so well known to me for the first twenty years of my life, look abroad over the pleasant fields and hills, occasionally meet a face which time has so lightly touched that I can stretch forth my hand and call the owner by name — that my heart does not thrill with recollections of the past, and I thank God for the old associations, and pray that so long as life is given me my mind may retain and my heart cherish them. Friends of my boyhood days, I greet you to-day. Memories of the olden times will throng your hearts as they do mine, and you will miss, as I do, "some who were, but are not"; yet I hope this meeting will renew and strengthen the old ties. It gives me also great pleasure to see so many of the Boys in Blue here to-day. I well remember the enthusiastic meeting in yonder hall, when the first call for troops came to us, how quickly our quota was filled ; and I remember also the promises made to these boys, that, if they would fight their country's battles, their families should be tenderly cared for, and their services held in grateful remembrance by those who could not go with them. To-day we meet to redeem one of those pledges; and so long as one stone remains above another in yonder Memorial Library, so long shall old Acton remember the heroic deeds of those brave men who sacrificed health, strength, and, many of them, life itself, that we might still have a united country. Gentlemen of the Board of Selectmen, it would have been a gratification to all of us, if, in accordance with your original design, the exercises of this day could have taken place upon that anniversary, which has been twice hallowed by the noble deeds of Acton men, the historical 19th of April. Many circumstances, however, combined to render this impossible. But I am happy that, by your indulgence and co-operation, I am afforded the opportunity on this later occasion, as a part of the ceremonies to which this day is dedicated, to consummate, and carry into full effect, a long-cherished purpose. That purpose was, to express by some gift which might be found acceptable, my love for the town which I am proud to call my birthplace, and especially to express my gratitude to those brave men, my former schoolmates and fellow-townsmen, who fell in the War of the Rebellion. As the result of much thought on my own part, and of consultation with those most nearly interested, it seemed best that my intentions should take the form which it now assumes, that of a memorial hall and free public library — the memorial hall to preserve the memory of those dead soldiers who offered up their lives on the field of battle—worthy descendants and successors of Davis, Hosmer, and Hayward, and dedicated to the use of the surviving vet erans who entered their country's service from this town ; the library to be, and to remain, for the free use of all the citizens of the town. I have called this a gift, but it is not a gift without a consideration; nor does it cancel the debt which I, in common with every son of Acton, owe to those men who have made the name of Acton illustrious. We are told that seven cities of Europe and Asia Minor claim the honor of being the birthplace of Homer, but there is no modern Homer who would not feel honored to be able to call Acton his birthplace. Nor are there any of her sons yet grown so great, as not to consider their nativity in this patriotic town an incident in their biography, well worth the mention. It is not to Davis and his brave men alone that we owe this debt of gratitude. When the battle cry sounded in 1861, descendants of the minute-men were the earliest to respond.

"Freedom's battle, once begun,
Descends from bleeding sire to son."

When the news flashed over the wire on the morning of April 19, 1861, that the gallant 6th regiment, made up of Middlesex county men, were marching through Baltimore, and that Capt. Daniel Tuttle and his company were in the van, there was no son of Acton, wherever located in this broad land, whose pulses did not thrill and quicken with a new accession of patriotic pride, and so throughout that painful four years' struggle, was the prestige of Acton maintained. Her quota was always full, and the courage, fortitude, and devotion of her soldiers, worthy of the early days of her history. And now we come to do them honor — to consecrate the dust of the fallen — to cheer, so far as may be, the declining years of their surviving comrades. In the hall of yonder building, the veteran shall always find a trysting place, where he may enjoy in that luxurious ease that his valor has won, the comradeship of his companions in arms. And when these comrades shall have broken ranks for the last time, and all are gathered to their long home, it shall remain a memento to their memory, and an incentive to a like devotion by their sons and sons' sons through all time. "That man is little to be envied," said Samuel Johnson, "whose patriotism would not gain force upon the field of Marathon." And poor indeed in spirit must be the pilgrim to the shrines of patriots like these, if he departs without receiving a new baptism from the divine afflatus of liberty. "Books," says Emerson, "are angels of entertainment, sympathy, and provocation." Let us hope, then, that this building may serve for our soldiers, the double

« PreviousContinue »