by Rev. Henry Hedges Prout
Originally published in the Windham Journal from February 18, 1869 to March 31, 1870. Article 27 published on November 11, 1869. Extracted from the microfilm copies of the Windham Journal located at the Vedder Research Library.
Transcribed by Arlene Goodwin
Any sketch of the early history of Windham would be imperfect, which did not mention the name of character of Foster Morss. He was a native of Concord, (now Lisbon) in New Hampshire, and early in his business career, removed to Lowell, Massachusetts, and a few years afterward, probably about 1805 or 1806, emigrated to Windham. His business life previous to that time had been unsuccessful, but his marked energy and tact soon won him prosperity, and very few men were so much before the public, or exercised so large a share of influence on the prosperity of the town, as did Foster Morss for the last 20 years of his life. He engaged largely in tanning leather. His first place of residence and first tannery were on the lot now owned by George Spencer, near the wagon-house, and on the same side of the road. Afterward, his investments in this business were increased, and a large landed property was added. He was an active man, and set things astir about him. He bore his full share in the necessary expenses of schools, and for the support of religion, though himself not a member of any denomination. His life was a manful, and we must believe a conscientious struggle. If it be both charitable and just to assume that there is such a thing as implicit faith, his respectful, habitual attendance on religious worship, and his benefactions toward its support, larger by far than the contributions of some explicit believers, would go to show that the subject of our sketch was implicitly and in heart a christian. His whole habit of life, and his manner of address were stirring and cheerful. Himself punctual, he expected punctuality of others. His death took place 1835, aged 61. His two older sons, children by his first marriage, were Lyman and Horace Morss, men of genuine worth, both deceased some years since. His next three children, by a second marriage, Elizabeth, (Mrs. Strong), Austin G. and Burton G. Morss are living, and their positions of usefulness and honor are too well know to require mention here. The latter, especially, seems born to all his father’s business energy, and to more than his father’s business success, showing how he who wisely furthers his own interests must, of necessity, be a benefactor to the public. These, together with the younger children of Foster Morss—all now, with one exception, living and occupying positions of high respectability, were school companions of the writer.
Another large circle of my childhood associates were the children of Benjamin Morss, a brother of Foster Morss, who came to Windham in 1812. Abner Berry, Esq., is his stepson and was ten years old when the family came here. Benjamin Morss was a carpenter, and died in Ohio about 1860. His children were Asa, Nathaniel, Samuel, Gilman, Benjamin, and Eliza Ann, all now removed or deceased.
The descendants of John Tuttle, Sr., are numerous, and it has been the hope of the writer, hitherto unfulfilled, that he might receive from them an authentic account of the removal of the family from Wallingford, Conn., to Windham. This event took place about 1788. The War of Revolution had been ended only five years before, and a curious anecdote of the effect of war stories on the young imagination is given. After listening to stories about sentries, countersigns, camps and guns, Jehial, the oldest son—afterward Gen. Tuttle—then a lad in teens, went out of the house at night, and imagined himself posted as a sentry on guard, marching backward and forward in the dark, when his father came out on his way to the barn, and was saluted in a gruff heavy bass voice with the exclamation, Halt! Not knowing or heeding what it meant, the old man was passing on, when the challenge from the kindling imagination of the boy-sentry was thundered more emphatic, Halt! But the spell was broken when the father in the gentlest and quietest manner exclaimed, "Why Hiel, what’s the matter?" and the lad was made aware of the tricks of his imagination had made him play. This was in Connecticut.
In his youth, Gen. Jehiel Tuttle learned the trade of blacksmith, married a daughter of Captain Medad Hunt, and after his death occupied the house and farm of Mr. Hunt. His two son, Medad and Julius died young. His daughters were four: Mrs. Alden, Mrs. Lyman Morss, Mrs. King, and Mrs. George Morss.
William, the second son of John Tuttle, Sr., was known as a life long, consistent member of the Episcopal church, in whose ways he trained his large family of children. His place in church was never vacant. His tone of character was pleasant, and his demeanor unvarying in a quiet self-consistency. He died suddenly some years since, when on a visit in Illinois, and left eight children, the heirs of a good name.
John Tuttle, the son of John Tuttle, Sr., married and went to live on his farm in the village of Ashland, in 1806, occupying at first what is now the wood shed belonging to the premises of Mr. Smalling. His family of eight children grew up and his affairs prospered till his death, in 1861, aged 79. It seems hardly possible that all but three of that youthful circle of the writer’s early associates are gone. Mr. Albert Tuttle, Mrs. Steele, and Mrs. Sandford Tuttle, are all that are living.
Sidney Tuttle was the youngest son of John Tuttle, Jr., and was buried two years ago, at the good old age, leaving three sons and two daughters. Some of his children had gone before him. The writer well remembers one—Sarah—whose sudden death caused a general grief. She died in 1825, at twelve years of age, seeming like a choice lamb whom the good shepherd would take to himself, or as a sweet flower transplanted to bloom beyond the reach of storms.
The grandparent died, was buried soon afterward, aged 79. He had ever been considered a friend of the Episcopal church, and the meeting at which Trinity Church was organized was held in his house, 1799. That house stood on the upper side of the road opposite Mr. Steele’s wagon house. It was a one-story building, having a low porch in front, and was kept as a public house for many years. One early reminiscence may be given. The well had been dug in such a spot that pigs broke into the enclosure by jumping over it. William took up a bright idea. He fixed a board above the mouth of the well, just a little too high for the pigs to leap over it, and then cornered them up, and in their struggle to get over every one failed, and fell back into the well and was drowned—a fine instance of boyish tact.
These very imperfect reminiscences of the above mentioned families are all the writer can command. The picture on his own memory, were he to sketch from it, is much fuller, though not minute in outline. The ceaseless business watchfulness of Foster Morss, his rapid movement, and cheerful way of accosting his neighbors; the contrasted calmness of his brother Benjamin; the stately figure of Gen. Tuttle; Lyman Morss, wholly sincere and guileless; Sidney Tuttle, whose place was the center of much business of the country; William, a man of characteristic suavity and unassuming intelligence; John Tuttle, whose large circle of children enlivened and cheered his house; and the children of all these families equally deserving mention—companion of the childhood of the writer, numbering in all at least forty, older and younger; some of them now departed, others living in much honor and usefulness—all this, could the sketch be worthily filled out, would form a picture of the past and present, neither uninteresting nor uninstructive.
The philosophical poet exclaimed, speaking typically:
My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So it was when I was a boy,
So it is now I am a man;
So let it be when I grow old
Or let me die.
The child is father of the man
And I could wish my days to be
Linked each to each in mutual charity.
Our recollections may be "shadowy" but shall not a day come when memory will be burnished and the picture be brighter? The past has made us what we are, and like the scaffolding of a building, the association by means of which we grow up are removed out of reach. Still those associations, dim in recollection, are not unworthy of reverent consideration. We owe a debt of thoughtful gratitude to the past. As men, we are children of that earlier golden era.
Heaven lied about us in our infancy, and hence the deep truth:
The child is father of the man.