Edward Palmer's Drowning
WHICH WAS PREACHED IN BRATTLEBORO ON A FUNERAL OCCASION OF
UNUSUAL SOLEMNITY--A VALUABLE BIT OF LOCAL ANTIQUITY.
An unusually valuable "find" in the line of our local antiquarian lore is that of a printed copy of a sermon preached by Rev. William Wells, the second settled minister of Brattleboro, in the year 1797. The occasion which called out the sermon was the death by drowning in the Connecticut river of two well-known young men--an occurrence which evidently produced a profound impression on the community of that day. The sermon makes a little pamphlet of 20 pages, in the quaint style of the last century. The pages are 3 by 6 inches in size. Without doubt this is the first Brattleboro sermon ever put in print. We copy the title-page:
PREACHED AT BRATTLEBORO, VERMONT, JULY 3, A.D. 1797,
By the Rev. William Wells,
Officiating Pastor of Christ's Church in that place,
AT THE INTERMENT OF
Mess. PARDON TAYLOR,
and EDWARD PALMER,
WHO THE DAY BEFORE WERE DROWNED IN CONNECTICUT RIVER
They were lovely and pleasant in their lives,
and in their death were not divided. -- 2d Sam. 23.
PREACHED AND PUBLISHED AT THE REQUEST OF THE MOURNING RELATIVES.
FROM THE PRESS OF BEN. SMEAD.
The sermon is prefaced with an account of the drowning accident and a notice of the young men who were its victims:
As the following excellent Discourse will probably circulate beyond the neighbourhood, where it was delivered, it has been thought proper to preface it with some account of the connexion and melancholy fate of the unfortunate young persons, at whose interment it was preached.
PARDON TAYLOR was the son of the Rev. HEZEKIAH TAYLOR, minister of New Fane, and was an apprentice to Dr. GEORGE H. HALL, of Brattleborough. -- EDWARD PALMER was the son of the late JOSEPH P. PALMER, Esq., formerly of Framingham, in the state of Massachusetts, and was an apprentice to Mr. BENJAMIN SMEAD, printer, of Brattleborough. These young men were nearly of an age, both having passed their 17th year.
A striking sweetness and similarity of temper, engaging manners, and assiduous attention to business, had not only endeared them to their connexions, but naturally united them in all the ardour of juvenile friendship; to this friendship PARDON TAYLOR, undoubtedly, sacrificed his life.
On the morning of the 2d of July, 1797, a number of young men went with them into the water to bathe: EDWARD PALMER, who could not swim, unaware of the boldness of the shore, advanced about one rod into the water, with a young man of the name of EATON, finding himself suddenly beyond his depth, he was greatly terrified, and immediately caught hold of EATON, and in such a manner as they both appeared, to their companions, to be in imminent danger: PARDON TAYLOR, who was near the shore, rushed, immediately, to their relief. EDWARD PALMER then left EATON, and seized his friend with one of those convulsive grasps, common to drowning persons. PARDON TAYLOR, though an excellent swimmer, was so entangled, that he could not save his friend, or even extricate himself; they both sank together, never to rise with life. Their bodies were found in about 30 minutes, and every means used to reanimate them, but in vain. Thus an unfortunate and generous youth, who, braving every danger, and looking upon everything, dear to himself, as of little consequence, when his humanity was to be exerted, fell an untimely sacrifice in attempting to rescue his friend from death.
Their funeral was attended from the house of Mr. SAMUEL DICKINSON, the following day, at two o'clock, P.M.
The solemnities were opened by an evangelical and happily adapted prayer, by the Rev. BUNKER GAY, of Hinsdale -- The following Discourse was delivered by the Rev. WILLIAM WELLS, of Brattleboro', (late of Broomsgrove, in England.) The performances being accompanied, occasionally, with affecting music. A pertinent prayer, by Mr. WELLS, closed the funereal services. Their remains were then decently interred in the same grave.
To be just, in some measure, to the character of Mr. TAYLOR, it must be observed, That he was diligent and faithful in business, amiable and benevolent in his disposition, mild and engaging in his deportment, kind and dutiful to his parents -- uniformly exhibiting a remarkable acuteness of intellect. In [can't make out this word], he promised to be an useful and valuable member of society, and an honour to human nature.
Of Mr. PALMER, it may be said, That just blooming in youth, he afforded to his connexions and friends the highest and most flattering prospects of becoming eminent and useful in his profession; and, if a winning modesty, a benevolent temper, an honest heart, and an expanding genius, will embalm his memory in the minds of his surviving friends; his unhappy fate will forever be regretted, and never forgotten.
The text of the sermon was the familiar passage from Job: "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." In its style of thought and expression the sermon is not noticeably different from that of the present day. It takes no advantage of the peculiar and distressing circumstances of the occasion to pile up its horrors or to oppress and terrify the minds of those who listened to it. Its three leading thoughts are:
I. That all the blessings we possess in this world are the gifts of GOD. The LORD gave.
II. Whenever we are deprived of our enjoyments and friends, the hand that takes them away is the same that gave them. The LORD hath taken away. And therefore,
III. We have occasion and should be in a disposition to bless GOD when he takes away, as well as when he gives.
Of bereavement and the loss of friends the preacher says, "I can say nothing but that I know it is right, because the Lord hath done it." And this is the teaching throughout -- whatever comes, of joy or of affliction, is to be borne or enjoyed, with thankfulness or submission, because "the Lord hath done it."
The modern pulpit adds little on solemn occasions like this to what of consolation and admonition Mr. Wells sums up in one of his closing paragraphs:
"Do earthly riches make to themselves wings? Let us lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven. Are our nearest and dearest relations mortal? Let us cultivate an acquaintance with the world above. Let us set our affections and have our conversation in heaven. And then, in a little while, we shall go to be with our friends that are gone before us, and enjoy the inconceivable pleasure of friendship with them, which will, in every respect, be delightful, and never be broken or interrupted. Then we shall see what abundant cause we had to acquiesce in the allotments of providence, and be satisfied with our afflictions as well as our comforts, and to say, 'The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.'"
in Prospect Hill Cemetery reads---
NEAR THIS SPOT
ON THE SECOND OF JULY
AGED SEVENTEEN YEARS
SON OF THE REV'D HEZEKIAH TAYLOR
OF NEW FANE
SON OF JOSEPH PEARCE PALMER AM
THE FORMER LOST HIS OWN LIFE
THROUGH HIS GENEROUS EFFORTS
TO PRESERVE THAT OF HIS YOUTHFUL FRIEND.
THEY WERE LOVELY AND PLEASANT IN THEIR LIVES
AND IN THEIR DEATH WERE NOT DIVIDED.
IF YOU KNEW THEM
YOU WILL WEEP WITH THEIR FRIENDS!
Una probably walked to Prospect Hill Cemetery for the view, and to see the graves of Royall Tyler, Mary Palmer Tyler, and the unfortunate Edward Palmer. Judge Royall Tyler was the model for the criminal Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon in her father Nathaniel's romance "The House of the Seven Gables"---but it is not known if Una ever learned about this literary stratagem.
Thomas St. John graduated from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey and lived in Boston, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Brattleboro, Vermont. He has published in the University of Utah's Western Humanities Review, the Ball State University Forum, and Counterpunch.