From the introduction -
"The following collection of poetry was found
hand-written by multiple authors in a single volume dating from 1831 to 1909.
The poems chronicle events in one American settler family's history and tell a
poignant and surprisingly personal true story. The accompanying narrative,
supplied by the author, is based on research of the poems, the persons involved,
and the towns and times in which they lived. It is largely factual and otherwise
faithful to natural inferences.
album begins as an intervention by a well-to-do family to persuade their
daughter, Harriet, the town sweetheart, to give up her reckless dream of
pioneering on the Western Frontier. From there the book takes on a life of its
own as it makes its way westward, each writer adding their own voice to this
story of determination, adventure, hardship, and love."
Athens, Ohio 1831 to 1836
Logan, Ohio & Elkhart County, Indiana 1837 to 1852
California, 1853 to 1909
From Chapter One -
Athens, Ohio 1831 to 1836
My name is Archibald Green Brown. I was born the same year my family moved to
Ohio, 1798. There was no Athens or Ohio University in those days, just some
cabins, one of which was ours. The site on which Ohio University sits had been,
just a few years before, the favorite hunting ground of the local Indians (most
of the Indian wars in Ohio were over by the early 1800's, though it was not
until 1818 that the Miami tribe gave up their last piece of ground). In 1830,
when this story begins, there were only twenty-four states in the Union, with a
total population of thirteen million, less than a million in Ohio. Andrew
Hickory,' was two years into his Presidency. I had graduated from Ohio
University and was then studying law, was the County Recorder, had founded and
very first newspaper, The Athens Mirror, and was acting Justice of the
I remember well Miss Harriet and the circumstances surrounding the
creation of her commonplace book. It was in 1831 that I was asked to be the
master-reader for the compilation of Harriet's
book. I was busy in those days and would never have agreed to teach private
lessons on poetry had it not been for Harriet Pruden. She was the most
enchanting young lady in Athens back then. Not only was she exceedingly
beautiful, she was also most kind and considerate.
Harriet was the daughter of a prominent Athens family and was sixteen years old
in 1831. She talked constantly of visiting the Wild West, seeing the fierce
Indians and exploring the boundless open space. Harriet had the 'wanderlust.'
Mrs. Mary Pruden approached me with the idea of creating a commonplace book for
her daughter. It was to be in the form of a keepsake or remembrance album, with
the purpose of convincing Harriet to stay in Athens. Harriet had fallen in love
with a young carpenter, one Emanuel Light. He was working in Athens but was from
Logan, some thirty miles north of Athens. Unlike Harriet, Emanuel was not
well-to-do and like many poorer people of the time, intended to head west to
become a settler and claim some of the new lands waiting to be tamed. Harriet,
at that tender age, had announced that she would marry Emanuel and accompany him
into the vast West. This created quite a stir in Athens. Truly she had no idea
of the hardship and toil associated with a settler's
life. She envisioned living in the Far West as an exciting adventure. At one
point she confessed to me that though she loved her family, she had no intention
of complying with her parents'
plans for her. Her intention was not to marry a rich gentleman and live in the
East. She found the whole idea boring and limiting. No, she wanted adventure and
excitement. She wanted to be a part of the country's
Lewis and Clark were her heroes and embodied her own dreams. She and Emanuel
wanted to follow in their footsteps.
Virtually everyone in Athens felt Harriet was making a huge mistake. She was
young and innocent and Emanuel was like Odysseus' syren, as he was
leading her into harm's
way. We all talked with her and tried to convince her it was just a passing
infatuation. Life in the Far West as a settler was for people who had no choice
but to head to the territories. Harriet would politely listen but would not give
up her dream. Once it became clear that the talking was going nowhere, Mary Pruden came up with the idea of creating the Remembrance Album for her daughter.
She felt that perhaps a concerted effort by all her friends and family would
show Harriet just how loved she was and might convince her to change her mind.
If it did not work, then at least she would have the book to remember everyone
by. Sentimental poetry was very popular in those days and Harriet was a great
fan of verse, hence the format for her book. Because of my fondness for Harriet
and knowledge of the tradition of
commonplace books, I agreed to participate in
the project. I insisted that Harriet's commonplace book
be based upon classical examples which date back to the Renaissance. The poetry,
often in the form of apothegms, would strive to teach the reader (Harriet)
important, time-honored truths about the world. It would be compiled as a
communal act and would be led by a master-reader who would lead the group to
correct understanding of texts. Further, I hoped that Harriet would pass the
book down to succeeding generations of her family as many older commonplace
books had been.
The class was formed and we met weekly for a few months to compose the poetry
and begin the album. We read the pieces aloud and refined them. I checked them
for spelling and punctuation and recommended books from the shelves of the
University library for the students to use for reference. We had a grand time.
Harriet was overwhelmed by her gift. So much so that we thought we had actually
convinced her to stay in Athens. Ultimately the young couple would leave, but
the commonplace book did give Harriet pause. It delayed their departure for
quite some time. Towards the end of 1836, the young couple finally eloped.
It was my honor to write the first entry in the album. I chose a quote from
Course of Time as it subtly conveyed my own feelings that Harriet and
Emanuel should be together. I hoped that the couple would stay in Athens and be
married. I liked Emanuel and hoped he would eventually be accepted by the Pruden
family. He would then not need to take our Harriet away. Of course, I could not
say this directly, being in the minority. Most people wanted nothing to do with
young Mr. Light, especially Harriet's
“For as by nature, sin is dark and loves
The dark, still hiding from himself in gloom
And in the darkness hell is still itself
The darker hell, and the severest ever
When all is wo, so virtue, ever fair!
Doth by a sympathy as strong as binds
Two equal hearts, well plowed in wedded love
Forever seek the light, forever seek
All fair and lovely things, all beauteous forms,
All images of excellence and truth;
And from her own essential being pure
As flows the fount of life that spirits drink,
Doth to herself give light, ner from her beams
As native as her own existence
Can be divorced, nor of her glory shorn."
A.G. Brown, Athens, Ohio Jan 25, 1831
(AG Brown married Priscilla K. Crippen January 8, 1824. They had no children.)
Elvira P. Crippen:
I am the daughter of Amos and Amelia (Steadman) Crippen, yet another of Athens'
earliest families. I considered Harriet one of my very best friends. I still
remember skipping rope and playing hide and seek in the groves as children.
Harriet was an explorer even then. She was always dragging me off to the hills
I suppose I didn't
find her decision to go west too surprising, what with that background.
When she confided to me that one day she would even see the Pacific Ocean and
California, then a part of Mexico, I had no doubt she would at least try.
However, when she said she would travel there overland, through miles and miles
of hostile, unknown territory, well, that was sheer folly, I thought. Plenty of
folks were heading to the territories back then but it was unthinkable for this
well-to-do, young lady to even consider such a move. It was inviting disaster!
parents, from personal experience, knew the toils associated with settling new
lands and wanted a more secure life for their daughter. Harriet was not raised
to be a settler; she was expected to marry a gentleman and live in an eastern
civilized town. Why she would choose to tempt fate in some godforsaken
wilderness, when she need not do so, was beyond most of us.
Though I hoped for the best, I had a bad feeling. People disappeared in the
West, leaving loved ones behind to fret. I was worried for my friend and wanted
her to know she could count on me if ever in need.
Oft as thine eye shall fondly trace
The simple line I sketch for thee,
What ever the time what ever the place
Then think on me!
When pleasure sparkles in your eye,
And every scene is fair to see,
When swift the happy moments fly
Oh, think on me!
Thy life, thy bliss, may heaven defend,
thou by it's
Ere want a true and faithful friend
Apply to me!
Elvira P. Crippen Athens April 8, 1831
(Elvira married Prince S. Baker September 8, 1836 in Athens. They had no
Other than myself, Harriet was the favorite of father's seven daughters.
My name is Rebecca, the fifth of twelve children, thirteen if you count Samuel.
I was born May 6, 1808, in Washington County, Ohio.
Fate does indeed work in mysterious ways. For instance, Harriet's
album might never have come to pass had my sister Aschah and I not visited
relatives in Gambier, Ohio late in 1830. Gambier is in Knox County and is home
to Kenyon College. Gambier these days is part of the Mt. Vernon metropolitan
area. Mt. Vernon was the home of John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed.
He left Mt. Vernon in 1828 and relocated to Indiana to begin his horticultural
In any case, while we were visiting there, friends began a commonplace book for
me. It was a popular pastime amongst the college students. Once we returned to
Athens and mother saw my album and how much I treasured it she decided we should
start an album for sister Harriet. My album was the inspiration for Harriet's.
One hundred and seventy-five years later my album is still with the family and
is much loved. It now resides with my great-great nephew in Michigan, and, like
my album also went on quite an adventure.
The poem I wrote to my sister brings back bittersweet memories. Harriet and I
were very close. We enjoyed reading poetry together and she often confided in
me. I disagreed with Harriet that the unknown West would be a grand adventure. I
remembered our elders'
stories of the toil and dangers they experienced when they were living as
settlers. It was, to me, not an appealing lifestyle and I was worried for my
well-being. Emanuel wanted to take Harriet to Northern Indiana, a dangerous
place in the early 1830's. That area was still flush with Indians. Emanuel was
singing the syren's
song, putting dangerous ideas in Harriet's head and leading
her down a perfidious path, so he was barely tolerated by the family.
I knew that only "he
who reigns above"
could guard her in her chosen direction or welcome her in the next world.
Reading my poem again after all these years I recall how fetching and sweet
Harriet was. I hope I conveyed that.
Selected for Sister Harriet
O, thou who in thy early spring
Art bright, and sweet, and gay -
Who, blithe as birds, dost lightly sing
As free from care as they;
Around whose brow fair hope hath bound
A wreath of charmed flowers,
And led thee, like a victim crown'd,
To her deceitful bowers:
List, list not, to the syren's
Her words are light as air,
Today, with her thou may'st
The next, weep with despair.
But place on him who reigns above,
The hope of thy young heart,
And thou shall triump in his love,
When earthly hopes depart.
Then faith shall be thy earthly guide
To his own holy heaven
And love shall ope the portals wide,
And joys untold be given
R.C. Pruden Prudensville, April 9th, 1831
see the Postscript for more on Rebecca and her book.)
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Logan, Ohio & Elkhart
County, Indiana 1837 to 1852
Aside from Harriet’s only two pieces, mine was the first poem from northern
Indiana entered into her album. She and Emanuel had arrived there a few months
before. It was only two short years after the majority of the natives were
forcibly evicted from those same lands. The young Light family joined us in
Middlebury on the banks of the Little Elkhart River. Middlebury could by only a
breadth be called a town then, with a mere twelve settler families as its entire
population. Harriet and I met at our little canvas covered church and quickly
became fast friends. What an astonishing woman she was. Harriet had given up the
good life that most of us would never know to pursue her dreams and her love.
She had given up fine clothes, a large home with servants, fancy parties, and a
secure future to come and take her chances with us in the wilderness. To
amazement she fit right in and became a joy to us all.
When I read this poem by Fredrich Adolf Krummacher (1767-1845) I knew that he
was speaking of our Harriet. Indeed she was
fairest found where all is fair."
and like the subject of the poem, was now clothed in simple garb. But even
there was still no other who could match Harriet's looks or
kind-hearted demeanor and she became our treasure, our very own 'Moss Rose.'
angel of the flower and day
Beneath a rose tree sleeping lay
That spirit to whose charge is given
To bathe young buds in dew from heaven
Awakening from its light repose
The angel whispered to the rose
O choicest object of my care
Still fairest found where all is fair
For the sweet shade thou'st
given to me
Ask what you wilt tis granted thee
Then said the rose with deepened glow
On me another grace bestow?
The spirit pawed in silent thought
What grace was there the flower had not?
Twas but a moment o'er
A vail of moss the angel throws
And clothed in Nature's
Could there a flower that rose exceed?
June 21 1840 Phebe Martin
All of us boys in Elkhart had huge crushes on Mrs. Harriet Light. So naturally
when she offered to help with the schooling of us youngsters by reading and
teaching us the poetry in her book, we all wanted to attend, whether we liked
poetry or not. There were at that time no real schools in Elkhart County. I
found that I actually enjoyed poetry and would clamor for any scrap of reading
material I could get my hands on. There were very few books around then, which
is why Mrs. Light's
was considered such a treasure. We did occasionally get an old newspaper or
magazine from other settlers passing through.
That was where I got this poem, or piece of a poem. I couldn't have been more
than twelve years of age at the time. It is actually only one of seven verses of
a piece by Sarah Roberts Boyle (1812-1869) which I knew was not in Mrs. Light's
album. It is one of the few poems from my times still popular today. I brought
the poem to our class and recited this one verse to the other children. Mrs.
Light said she was so impressed that she wanted me to write it in her album. Now
understand, we kids never even got to hold the album, for fear of spilling
something on it or otherwise damaging it. So it was with fear and trepidation
that I set about making my contribution. As you can see by my handwriting I was
not yet a competent writer and Mrs. Light suggested I write in pencil so I could
easily correct any mistakes I might make. She also had me practice writing the
poem on other bits of paper before I did my final version in her book. I still
managed to make a few mistakes. Mrs. Light seemed nonetheless genuinely pleased
with my contribution. I received a big hug for my effort which flustered me. I
blushed beet red for a full week, much to my embarrassment and everyone else's
The Voice of the Grass
here I come creeping creeping every
where. you can not see me coming,
nor heare my low sweet humming
far in the starry night and the glad
morning light I come quietly creeping
every where -
James R. Wert:
The Battle of the Alamo and San Jacinto was just one year before I wrote this
poem to Harriet. A few of us heard they were in need of men for the militia and
so were heading south to the Republic of Texas (Texas didn't
become a state until 1845).
The worst part of leaving was saying goodbye to Miss Harriet Pruden, soon to be,
Mrs. Light. I was good friends with Emanuel but totally smitten with his fiancé,
so until they said their vows she was fair game for a little impromptu flirting.
Emanuel was very understanding. He had nothing to worry about. Her heart was
only for him and he knew it. Besides he could have whipped any of his
competition. Not that he was a brawler, but he was big, strong and agile as a
cat. So, I wrote this poem to an engaging young lady that stole my heart. I knew
I had no chance of ever being any more than her friend.
Oh, hush the soft sigh, avail, and dry the sweet tear
To this bosom thy image shall ever be dear;
pictured scenes how the colors decay,
fairy season as soon melts away!
When its balm breathing dew I delighted to sip,
Did I think a farewell would escape from that lip
By honor commands though far should I roam
The loadstone of love will attract me to home.
Logan March 9th 1837 James R. Wert
California, 1853 to 1909
Jane L. Bently:
I was twenty-two when I wrote this poem. We first met the Lights
before we became the Lights, back in 1840 when Emanuel, Harriet and
little David first showed up in Elkhart County, Indiana. My father
befriended the Lights and it wasn't long before we loved them all. It was
wild country back then, heavily wooded with settler's cabins spread out on
their lands, usually a mile or more apart. There were fewer Indians by 1840.
The Potawatomi had been forcibly evicted by the government and moved to the
territories in 1838.
In 1852 little Frank was born. Shortly thereafter we packed our belongings and
headed out for California during the Gold Rush. We crossed the Sierra Nevada
Mountains and arrived before the snows in September of 1853.
I had the honor of writing the very first poem in Harriet's old album from
California, even though it was yet another occurrence that was full of sorrow.
Shortly after arriving in El-Dorado, my beloved brother-in-law David made up his
mind to go off prospecting for gold. He was only fourteen years old at the time.
Emanuel never would have let him go except he partnered up with a trusted family
we had met on the trail. He did manage, later, to get a letter to us but I never
saw him again. I wrote and entered this piece in the album the day after he
Cold Spring, Eldorad O., California, Sept 30, 53
To David Light
Can I forget the fond fond sigh
That breathed our last adieu
The tear that gemed thy lovely eye
Like dew on violets blue,
Though you and I no more may meet
Or be where we have been
Yet to dear rememberance sweet
Shall be our parting scene.
Jane L. Bently
Martha Ann Light:
From time to time I would leave a marker in the old album to remind me of an
important occasion. The first marker, in 1870, was when the album was passed
down to me. I was fifteen then, we lived in Tulare County. The second marked the
year we left Tulare and moved north, the same year as the Modoc Indian War. By
the end of 1872 the whole family ended up living in Santa Rosa, in the
redwood-clad hills of Sonoma County, in Northern California.
Martha Ann Light May, 1870
Tuly River Tulare County California
Tule River, January 9th 1872 Martha A. Light
Shoot, I couldn't
believe Martha Ann wanted me to write something in her shrine. That's
what she called that poem book she was never without. We met Martha here in
Santa Rosa back in 1875. She was as fine as a spring day, always had a smile or
good word for everyone.
My family's farm was next to the Light place on the outskirts of town. Martha
Ann would stop by to visit and sometimes she'd
read us poems. Some she wrote, others were from folks she never even knew but
had written in that same book. I didn't really understand
but they were some mighty fine poems. My wife, Caroline, would fix Miss Martha
some lemonade and she and the youngsters and I would sit on the porch and listen
to her verses.
One day she asked me if I knew any poetry. I had written a poem, back when I was
of courting age and was trying to steal the heart of my true love. Martha Ann
said she thought it was just right and asked me to write it in her old book. I
write real fancy like the other folks in the book and made something of a mess.
All the same Miss Martha said it was her new favorite and seemed pleased.
Caroline of Dricreek
Its of a fare young damsel,
A story - I will tell she was a
on Dricreek she did dwell
Her hare was like the ravens wing
Her eyes like stars did shine
And red as roseys was the cheeks
Of sweet Caroline