Library Collections: Document: Full Text

Memories Of Eighty Years

Creator: Fanny J. Crosby (author)
Date: 1906
Publisher: James H. Earle & Company, Boston
Source: Available at selected libraries
Figures From This Artifact: Figure 2  Figure 3  Figure 4  Figure 5  Figure 6  Figure 7  Figure 8  Figure 9

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Near the humble cottage in which I lived for the first few years of my childhood ran a tiny brook, one of the branches of the Croton River; and the music of its waters was so sweet in my ears that I fancied it was not to be surpassed by any of the grand melodies in the great world beyond our little valley. During pleasant summer days I used to sit on a large rock, over which a grape-vine and an apple-tree clapsed hands to make a bower fit indeed for any race of fairies, however ethereal in their tastes. The voices of nature enchanted me; but they all spoke a familiar language. Sometimes it was the liquid note of a solitary songster at eventide in the distant woods; or the industrious hum of a bee at noon, when every creature but himself and the locusts was sleeping in the shade; or the piping of a cricket as night was drawing on; and how could I help thinking, now and then, that the fairies themselves were bringing messages directly to me? In childhood the tender language of the heart is the only familiar speech; and imagination the only artist of the beautiful that seems to satisfy the childish soul. In these later years, there-fore, I sometimes drink from the springs whose waters were once so cool and inspiring, and then I often think that I have indeed discovered the fountain of perpetual youth, flowing from the heart of nature.


Of the family of my father, John Crosby, we have unfortunately little record; and of him I have no recol-lection, for he died before I was twelve months old. My mother came of a very hardy race; earnest and devout people; noted for their longevity. She herself lived till past ninety-one; and her great-grandmother attained the goodly age of one hundred and three years, and after she was eighty-two she rode from Putnam County, New York, to Cape Cod and back again, through the half-cleared wilderness.


My mother's maiden name was also Crosby; and her line traces back to Simon and Ann Crosby, who came to Boston in 1635 and settled across the Charles River three miles from town. Simon Crosby was one of the founders of Harvard College; and his son Thomas Crosby graduated from that institution in 1653.


My great-grandfather, Isaac Crosby, was noted for his wit. While in the Revolutionary War, wishing a furlough that he might visit his home to see a child born during his absence, he told his general that he had nineteen children at home and had never seen one of them. Of course his request was granted. He was the son of Eleazer Crosby and Patience Freeman, the grand-daughter of Elder William Brewster; and through Zachariah Paddock, another ancestor on my mother's side, we are also descended from Thomas Prence and Major John Freeman. When General Warren was killed at Bunker Hill it was a Crosby, I am told, who caught up the flag as it fell from his hands. Enoch Crosby, the spy of the Revolution, was a cousin of my grandfather's; and I have always read, with much interest, the account of him, given by Cooper in his novel, "The Spy," where he passes under the name of Harvey Birch. This daring and brave patriot sleeps near one of the charming little lakes in Putnam County, not many miles from my own birthplace.


My grandmother was a woman of exemplary piety; and from her I learned many useful and abiding lessons. She was a firm believer in prayer; and, when I was very young, taught me to believe that our Father in Heaven will always give us whatever is for our good; and there-fore that we should be careful not to ask him anything that is not consistent with His Holy Will. At evening-time she used to call me to her dear old rocking chair; then we would kneel down together and repeat some simple petition. Many years afterward when grand-mother had departed from earth and the rocking chair had passed into other hands, in grateful mem-ory, I wrote a poem entitled, "Grandma's Rocking Chair":


"There are forms that flit before me,
There are tones I yet recall;
But the voice of gentle grandma
I remember best of all.


"In her loving arms she held me,
And beneath her patient care
I was borne away to dreamland
In her dear old rocking chair."


She was always kind, though firm; and never punished me for ordinary offenses; on the contrary, she would talk to me very gently, and in this way she would convince me of my fault and bring me into a state of real and heartfelt penitence. My playmates always knew that I was interested in nearly every kind of childish mischief; and they were not in the least hesitant about inviting me to engage in any of their most daring exploits.


On one occasion grandmother slapped my hands for some breach of good behaviour. This grieved me greatly; and at once bitter resentment sprang up in my heart. Thinking to soothe me, a little companion called me out to play with him, but, as I went, something within said, "Yes I will play with you; but I will hurt you, for grandma has hurt me." And so I threw a stone at him, but missed my aim; and the cloud soon passed and all was sunny again. Fifty years later, to my great surprise, when I was lecturing in Yonkers, New York, a man whispered in my ear, "Don't you remember David Ketcham, your early playmate?" Certainly I remembered him and we had a good laugh over the incident that I have just related; and, I am happy to say, over many others of a more pleasing character.

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