♦  The Remembrance Album of Harriet Pruden  ♦

Written by Richard K. Pate - Based on a true story


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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.

    The 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."

Chapter One: Athens, Ohio 1831 to 1836

Chapter Two: Logan, Ohio & Elkhart County, Indiana 1837 to 1852

Chapter Three: California, 1853 to 1909


From Chapter One - Athens, Ohio 1831 to 1836

A.G. Brown: 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 scattered settlers' 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 Jackson, 'Old 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 run Athens' very first newspaper, The Athens Mirror, and was acting Justice of the Peace.

       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 "Westward Expansion." 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 Pollok's 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 mother.


From Pollok's "Course of Time"


“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 to play "Discover." 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! Harriet's 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.

 To Harriet

 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,

But should'st thou by it's stern decree;

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 children.)

 ¨   ¨   ¨   ¨ 

R.C. Pruden: 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 adventure.

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 Harriet's, 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 sister's 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 voice

Her words are light as air,

Today, with her thou may'st rejoice -

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

(Please see the Postscript for more on Rebecca and her book.)


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From Chapter Two: Logan, Ohio & Elkhart County, Indiana 1837 to 1852

Phebe Martin: 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 hair's 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 everyone's 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 "the fairest found where all is fair." and like the subject of the poem, was now clothed in simple garb. But even "clothed in Nature's simplest weed," 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.'

 The Moss Rose

 The 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 the rose

A vail of moss the angel throws

And clothed in Nature's simplest weed

Could there a flower that rose exceed?

 June 21 1840      Phebe Martin 

¨   ¨   ¨   ¨

Anonymous: 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 delight.

 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;

Of hope's pictured scenes how the colors decay,

And love's 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 

¨   ¨   ¨   ¨

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From Chapter Three: 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 left.


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


¨   ¨   ¨   ¨


 Anonymous: 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 can't 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

Farmer's daughter dear

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

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