James MCBRIDE, the son, was born November 2, 1788, on the farm above mentioned, a short distance form Greencastle, Franklin County, Pennsylvania. He received no set education, but improved what opportunities he had for reading, and, on coming to this county, in the eighteenth year of his age, was discovered to possess a very large amount of useful knowledge. He had been well instructed in penmanship, and his neat and painstaking chirography can be traced in the public records of the county almost from the time of his coming until his death. His first employment, it is believed, was as clerk for John REILY, but he soon found other openings. Every one had the utmost confidence in him, and he was constantly in request. His patrimony was not large, but it enabled him sometimes to try new plans for bettering his fortune. Just before the war with Great Britain, in the early part of this century, he engaged with Joseph HOUGH in a venture to New Orleans. Flour was bought and shipped to that port with a large profit, and thenceforth Mr. MCBRIDE was easy in his circumstances. He never attained the riches.
In 1813 he was elected sheriff, and was again chosen in 1815. This office was then considered as being the chief one in the county, and it shows the confidence his fellow-citizens must have had in him, as he was but twenty-five when elected. While holding this office he was married to Hannah, daughter of Judge Robert LYTLE, who dwelt a few miles from town, and with her he lived forty-five years, having three sons and two daughters.
Mr. MCBRIDE had scarcely removed to this county when he began his researches in the early history of this region. He foresaw its progress, and knew that where there was then only a wooded plain would soon be villages and cities. The pioneers were still alive who could recount the tale of the defeat of St. Clair, the triumphal march of Wayne, the building of the first houses, and the birth of the first children. Some of the older ones had been in the Revolutionary struggle, and yet older ones remembered the last long and tedious war we waged with France, ending with glorious victories in 1763. These stories were not wasted upon an inattentive ear. He listened to the narrations, and put down upon paper the material portions relating to the early settlement of the Miami country. He verified the relations by comparison with others, and then wrote out a rough draft for publication. This again was changed and altered until, in some cases, three drafts of the same narrative were extant at once. It is impossible so say how much he wrote, but there are probably now in existence, in his handwriting, not less then three thousand pages of manuscript bearing upon Butler County and the country adjacent. Among the most valuable of these is the work issued in 1869 by Robert CLARKE & Co., of Cincinnati, under the title of "Pioneer Biography of Butler County." This is in two handsome octavo volumes, and contains sketches of nearly thirty peoneers, besides incidental allusions to more than a hundred otheres. By the indulgence of Mrs. STEMBEL, his daughter, and of Mr. Robert CLARKE, we have used much of the matter in these pages, without indicating from what source it has been taken. It is safe to say that with theses, and what we have been able since to glean, there will be no county in the State better informed of its beginnings than Butler. Our "shepherd kings" are not mythical.
Besides these, Mr. MCBRIDE wrote a history of Hamilton, and one of Oxford, together with a sketch of the Miami University. These have never previously been printed; but their substance will appear in these pages. No one can read what he has done without being struck with the thoroughness and solidity with which he did his work. He read many volumes to make his annotations, and each page of his writing must represent a day of labor. There are blanks left here and there to be filled up, and in some cases where chapter headings were placed the text had not been written. He hoped to be able to do this, but time was lacking. To the triennial catalogue of the Miami University there are copious additions, and there is included in his papers on the Miami University a list of the graduates, with their subsequent history. This must have taken a great deal of correspondence. He wrote an account of the Hamilton bridge, which was published by the stockholders; he furnished the means, and wrote the book, describing SYMMMES's theory of concentric spheres; and he occasionally contributed points of Ohio history both to Cist's Miscellany and the Hamilton papers. HOWE's History of Ohio was largely indebted to him.
But while he was writing what had happened, he was also attentive to gathering up those books and odds and ends of knowledge that would make the preparation of historical works easier to the future annalist. His library was in many branches of knowledge, embracing probably five thousand volumes, at a day when neither incomes nor libraries were so large as at present. He retained files of the Hamilton papers from the beginning, as well as of Niles' Register and the National Intelligencer. A few of these went to the State library but the remainder are destroyed. He kept every pamphlet athat reached him; and it is not too much to say that, in this respect, the loss that was suffered by his death and their destruction is incalculable to the student of Western history. Beginning his researches in 1806, and continuing them for more than a half a century, it is certain that the historical societies of the future, in Chicago, Cincinnati, and Cleveland, would be willing to pay their weight in silver for what is now lost. It should be remembered that, seventy-six years ago, Cincinnati, Pittsburg, and Louisville were inconsiderable villages, and St. Louis a hamlet. Mr. MCBRIDE's collection was probably the richest in the incunabula of the West, if we may borrow a term generally restricted to the fifteenth century, of any made or gathered in the United States. He had the same advantages that Jefferson had when he collected his library of works relating to America, with the exception that our pioneer retained only those which were locally valuable.
Mr. MCBRIDE was never happier than when in his library. He had a sincere love for truth, and wished himself to know what it was, even when he had no desire to write or otherwise express it. His books were his fountains of knowledge. He kept continually adding to them, and was equally assiduous in extracting their contents. He was always ready to lend his aid to other investigators, and to place them upon sound ground. He had a strong intellect and a love for letters, and he never seemed to grow tired of these investigations. The result was that, in the end, he had accumulated a vast stock of knowledge, and this without pretense or exciting remark.
As will be seen by our chapter on the mound-builders, kindly furnished by J.P. MACLEAN, the whole region hereabouts is dotted with the remains of a race who built earthworks and threw up barrows, and of whom no other relics now remain. Mr. MCBRIDE was the first observer in this county who gave these tumuli more than cursory attention. He opened some of them, and others he surveyed and described. The one on sections 4, 5, 8, and 9, St. Clair Township, was described in the transactions of the Ohio Historical and Philosophical Society by him. He spent much time in this pursuit, and, by patience and the use of money, finally succeeded in getting together the finest collection of prehistoric relics ever in this neighborhood. Many of these curiosities were the gifts of his neighbors, who knew his tastes. This cabinet is now in the possession of George W. VAUX, of Philadelphia. Forty years ago SQUIER and DAVIS were in this vicinity, making surveys, drawings, and collections for a volume soon to be issued by the Smithsonian Institute, in Washington, and enlisted his aid and that of Mr. John W. ERWIN in their behalf. Yet, although the "Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley" owe largely to the assistance of these two gentlemen, who furnished near a hundred pages, they received no public acknowledgment, and the community at large believes these drawings, plans of survey, and notes were from the pen of the two editors.
We are apt to forget, in these days of easy locomotion and advanced education, what great benefits were reaped from our early colleges. They deserved all the encomiums lavished upon them by the early historians, although their staff of professors was small, their range of studies limited, and their teachers knew little but the classics. They kept the lamp of knowledge aflame throughout the country, and here and there trained up men who carried the advance of knowledge still further. In this task Miami University had a great share, and, of its board of governors, none took a greater or more intelligent interest than Mr. MCBRIDE. From the origin of the institution he was connected with it, and at the time of his death he was the president of its board of trustees. Without himself having attained a collegiate education, he appreciated its advantages. He was sedulous in attendance at the meetings of the trustees; he was treasurer for a long time; he aided on the building committees and elsewhere, and he invariably gave the faculty a full support. That institution acquired an early and great fame, and to no one scarcely can more credit be given than to Mr. MCBRIDE.
We should not omit to mention the map drawn by him in 1836. This was published by himself and James B. CAMERON, and engraved by DOOLITTLE and MUNSON. It is a large copper-plate, five feet by four, and of the utmost accuracy. Every little stream is laid down upon it, meanderings of the Miami can by this be compared with its bed in the present day. No more truthful county map, we have authority for saying, was ever published in Ohio. Some of his manuscript maps are also in existence in the public offices. They are both handsome and accurate, and of marvelous perfection in the lettering.
After ceasing to be sheriff he was in repose several years, until he was urged by his fellow-citizens to become mayor of Hamilton. He showed in this office the same punctual diligence he displayed elsewhere, as is attested by his docket, still preserved, in which he recorded the eases brought before him. While in this position he aided in a codification of the municipal ordinances. After the election of John WOODS as auditor of state he went thither to assist him, rendering most valuable co-operation, and in 1846 was chosen clerk of the courts of Butler County, a position he held until 1852.
He was a taciturn and modest man, never frequenting public gatherings, and rarely conversing at any length except with those intimately connected with him. He was averse to display. He was very quiet and unobtrusive, and of sterling integrity. He could not push himself forward. He was charitable almost to a fault, and never let a person leave his door unaided. His probity was of the highest. He never sought to escape the consequences of an action in which he had been unfortunate, through misjudgment or misplaced confidence, but dealt as he would be done by. He was active in every thing that helped to benefit or improve his county or State, and took an interest in every thing that promised these results. He was a stockholder in the bridge, the hydraulic, and the railroad, because he thought they would benefit the town, and not because he thought they would put money in his pocket.
When he had attained the patriarchal age of three-score and ten his wife died. This was on the 23d of September, in 1859. He seemed instantly to lose all interest in life, and prepared himself to depart. Ten days after he died, on the 3d of October, aged seventy years and eleven months, and leaving two sons and two daughters. Homer, his oldest son, had died long before, and those who survived were Horace, James, Laura, and Marietta. The last married William SANDERS, and on her death left two daughters. Laura married Roger N. STAMBEL, a graduate of Miami University, who entered afterwards the navy, and was badly wounded at Island No. 10 on the Mississippi, where he was the captain of a gun-boat. He is now a commodore. Both of Mr. MCBRIDE's sons are dead.
John Cleves SYMMES, the junior, commonly known as captain, to distinguish him from his uncle, Judge John Cleves SYMMES, the leading patentee of the Miami lands, was born in Sussex County, New Jersey, on the 5th of November, 1780. He was the son of Timothy SYMMES, a Revolutionary soldier, who was afterwards a judge in New Jersey, and who came out to this region soon after his brother. He was twice married, --once to Abigail TUHILL, and once to Mary HARKER. By the first marriage he had three children, and by the second six. John Cleves SYMMES, the subject of this sketch, was the eldest of the latter. He received a good elementary education, and early developed a great taste for reading. This was indulged as far as possible, and he also carefully studied mathematics and the natural sciences.
On attaining the age of twenty-two, or on the 2d of April, 1802, he entered the American army as ensign, the lowest rank of commissioned officer. On the 1st of May, 1804, he was promoted to the rank of second lieutenant; on July 29, 1807, to that of first lieutenant; and on the 20th of January, 1812, he received a commission as captain. He continued to serve in that capacity during the war, and until the disbanding of the army in 1816.
Soon after he entered the army he was ordered to the South-west, and was stationed successively at Fort Coupee, Louisiana; Fort Adams, fifty miles below Natchez, on the Mississippi, and at New Orleans.
While at Fort Adams he fought a duel with one of his comrades, as given in a letter to his brother Celadon, dated Fort Adams, June 28, 1807:
"I sit down to emit from the point of my pen such ideas as may chance to rise in my mind while I imagine myself narrating to you the pleasures and pains I have experienced since I last wrote. The proportion of the latter has far exceeded that of the former, although the six months I spent at Fort Coupee glided away like a pleasing dream, where happiness appeared within my reach; and just as I was possessing it, I was aroused and hurried away to Orleans, where a viperlike enemy had been before me and made several others, who were actuated by hope of promotion and love of mischief.
"This subtle, designing enemy was my late surgeon mate, Dr. John FOWLES, who insinuated that I had acted dishonorably in giving him a furlough with prospect of pay, and that I had insisted on his giving me his pay while absent, on account of having to take care of the sick for him; on hearing which I immediately declared his allegation false, and that he should five me a certificate satisfactory or meet me in the field of honor.
"After I had stated the truth that he had built his story out of, declaring I had done nothing but what I was willing the world should know or that I could blame myself for, and pointed out the precedent I was guided by, I obtained with ease a furlough to go to Point Coupee to adjust some unsettled business I pretended to have there. I went and humbled his (mean) soul as much as mine (but too generous then), and dictated a certificate, which he copied and signed. I then returned in triumph to Orleans, where those juniors, disappointed in the hope they at first had entertained of obtaining promotion by my resigning in a fright, or getting killed by the doctor, continued their nefarious cabals under the rose. But I smelt a rat, felt provoked, and strutted with more confidence than as usual to me at other times. On one of these lowering days I began a letter which I never finished. I here give you a paragraph of it: 'I lately read a French proverb indicating that a man without enemies was no grate thing. I then wished for some. I now have my wish, and believe I shall profit thereby. They are a necessary stimulus, calculated to promote energy and perseverance. If I do not take pains to nourish them, I shall not to do them away, unless some one should be so bold as to emerge from under the rose, and refuse to apologize and return.'
"A week or two after my return from Point Coupee, I was told by an old acquaintance, under cover of friendship, that my juniors in rank did not admit my character to be fairly cleared up, and had persuaded several to think with them. I made light of it to him, but advised with a field officer, who happened not to be characterized by decision. His response was evasive. I therefore, of my own accord, made an official application to the general for a court of inquiry, to examine whether or not my conduct had been correct.
"The general, being much hurried with business at that time, neglected to order the court for several days, during which time I, in the course of duty, had occasion to see the standing order relative to police, which I had not yet seen. I, therefore, went, as I ought, to Lieutenant MARSHALL, who was adjutant, an, in his office, asked him to see the orderly book. He answered that it was more proper that I should examine the books of the company to which I was attached, and that I should not see them there. I then observed that I did not suppose but that he was a man of his word, and reminded him that he had formerly given a like answer and refusal on the same occasion, with a promise that, in case the sergeant had not recorded the orders (as I suggested), I might see them in his office; upon which he blustered toward me, and demanded what I meant; while I returned him that I meant as I said. He then declared that, since he had promised them, I might see them, and handed me the book, observing, at the same time, that I was not generally considered as a gentleman. At this time our passions were both raised. I quelled mine, and spoke deliberately to this effect, that I should not consult his opinion relative to what other people thought of me, but wished to know if he did not himself say I was not a gentleman. He answered yes, and that he did not consider me one. I continued that I had long observed the ill offices that he was inclined to do me, and that he wanted promotion ('Yes,' said he, 'I do.') and would be disappointed in the way he looked for it, but that I was still willing he should have a chance for it: 'Let us go out and take a shot.' (By this time, besides two officers sitting in the room, five of six had collected in front of the door, which stood open.) He declined, alleging that he did not consider me on a gentlemanly footing with him, alluding to what Dr. FOWLES had said of me. I urged that, until I was arrested or officially charged with some misdemeanor, I stood on the same footing of every other officer, and that I was not subject to be insulted with impunity. About this time he began to come down, and endeavored to make out that he had not disputed my gentility, but still refused a second invitation I have him, alleging the same reason, but said that he would fight me after the court of inquiry (I expected) should acquit me. I consented to the preposition, provided it could not take place sooner, and then proceeded to read the orders I wanted to see, and he sat down to his breakfast. That day I mounted guard, and the next, when relieved, took a sleep after dinner, and went early to parade (I then quartered in town) without consulting any person. I had determined what to do, which was to fall in with Mr. MARSHALL when he had his sword on, and wring his nose. I did not get an opportunity until after parade was dismissed, when walking to the barracks, I overtook him and requested to speak to him. He turned toward me; I accomplished my intention, and bringing my hand on the hilt of my sword, and taking one step backward, I involuntarily said, 'Draw and defend yourself.' He did not draw, but stepped toward me-to grapple, as I expected; for he is a large man. I then held my sword horizontally before me, and told him not to advance, but draw and defend himself. He then, after an exclamation of surprise, made for his quarters, beckoning and calling me to follow, which I did to the front of his door, where I passed fore and aft, then went to a group of officers near, and related what I had done, observing that I expected that he would not now hesitate to take the field. Presently he came toward us, calling on me. I advanced to him. He then said that he would meet me, and proposed that our seconds should convene on the gallery as soon as possible. I consented, and glided to my quarters (if possible) like a man intoxicated with pleasurable passion. One of my messmates said I had been drinking wine. Lieutenant CLYMER, a messmate, who had at that moment returned, after an absence of two weeks, immediately became my second; met Mr. MARSHALL, and they agreed that we should meet on the commons at daylight next morning. Mr. CLYMER prepared me excellent pistols and a surgeon to attend. We met at the appointed time, and, at the distance of tem paces, standing sideways, fired at the word. The one appointed to give it first asked, 'Are you ready?' We at the same instant answered, 'Yes.' He then said, 'Fire!' and we raised our arms together deliberately, from a hanging position. My intention was to aim at his hip; his (I learn) at my breast. Consequently, I got the first fire, which drew his shot somewhat at random, though it must have passed within a line of the lower part of my belly, as it pierced through my pantaloons, shirt-tail, and the bone of my careless hanging wrist, close to the joint. He received my ball in hi thigh, but where it glanced to the doctors cannot find. It is said that he is now walking about. I wanted to know if he desired another shot, and being informed in the negative, left my second and surgeon attending to him, and, with my handkerchief wrapped around my wound, went home and ate a hearty breakfast, not expecting to be confined or much afflicted with what appeared to the doctor, as well as myself, little more than a scratch. But many a long day and night I suffered for the error of not losing blood and dieting, as I ought to have done; 'twas near two months before it healed, and two weeks of that time it was dangerously inflamed, and disjointed of itself, which is the cause of its looking or being somewhat awry and not working freely in the joint like the other. The pain produced fever, and that debility, which exposed me to a multitude of infirmities. The most obstinate and afflicting was a dysentery, which began with a dropsy, and continued with violence for six or seven weeks. I have not got shut of it; but my feet and legs continue to bloat to a troublesome degree. The court of inquiry I applied for was ordered, agreeable to my request, and as soon as my wound began to mend I wrote an official notice to the recorder that I was ready to come before the court, if they would appoint a place to sit and give me notice; and I repeatedly stated verbally the same to Captain LOCKWOOD, who was president thereof, who alleged that he was under marching orders, and it was intimated to me by numbers the proceedings wold be a needless piece of precaution in me, as every one was convinced of my integrity and gentility. I, therefore, made no further application to be heard, especially as the members of the court were immediately scattered to different posts."
Captain SYMMES never fully recovered the use of his wrist; it was always stiff and a little awry. The wound which Lieutenant MARSHALL received disabled him so that he carried the effects of it through life. He was afterward befriended by Captain SYMMES, who always spoke of this duel with regret.
At the time of the commencement of the war with Great Britain, in 1812, the first regiment of United States infantry, of which he was senior captain, was stationed at the mouth of the Missouri River, in the Territory of Missouri. Here they remained until 1814, when they were ordered to join the army of General Brown, on the northern frontier. After a long and fatiguing journey by land and water, they reached Canada on the 25th of July, the very day on which the battle of Bridgewater, or Lundy's Lane, was fought.
The battle commenced near sunset. The ?First Regiment, which was commanded by Lieutenant-colonel Robert C. NICHOLAS, had not joined the army at the time of the opening of the battle, but were about two miles in the rear. When the firing commenced, without waiting for or receiving orders from General BROWN, the regiment was put in motion by Colonel NICHOLAS, and marched with all possible expedition to the scene of the conflict. When they arrived at the American camp they found General RIPLEY, to whom they had been ordered to report, had advanced with his brigade, and, without halting, they continued to press forward.
It was twilight when they reached the field; they formed themselves within a short distance of the enemy's batteries, without meeting with any general officer or aid-de-camp to instruct them how they should join in the conflict. Ignorant of the situation of either army, except from the observations made in coming up, and unapprised of the position of General RIPLEY's brigade, Colonel NICHOLAS, when he found himself so near a British battery, which had opened fire upon his regiment, ordered the men to retire a short distance. While the attention of the battery was thus, directed to the First Regiment, Colonel James MILLER, leading the battalion, partly under the cover of the fence of a church-yard moved swiftly up the hill and attacked the artillerists almost before they were aware of their presence, and after a short but desperate hand-to-hand fight, in which he lost a number of his gallant men, he captured the whole park, consisting of seven brass cannon, ammunition-wagons, etc.
After the capture of this position, Colonel NICHOLAS was enabled to report to General RIPELY, and was ordered to assume a position on the left of Colonel MILLER's regiment. This order was promptly obeyed, and the position held till the close of the action.
General BROWN, in his official report, makes honorable mention of the bravery of Captain SYMMES in this battle.
On a partial recovery from his wounds, General BROWN took command at Fort Erie, which was closely invested by the British, who were actively employed in surrounding it with batteries. On the 17th of September he resolved to make a sortie, which was accomplished with spirit and success; the British were completely surprised, and, after a severe conflict of two hours, the three batteries, the whole line of intrenchments, and their block-houses were in the possession of the Americans. In this action Captain SYMMES and his command captured one of the batteries. He led his men over the intrenchments, and spiked the first cannon with his own hand.
In 1816 Captain SYMMES retired from the army, and took up his residence at St. Louis, where he engaged in furnishing supplies for the troops stationed on the Upper Mississippi, and in trading with the Fox Indians, for which he had a special license from Governor Clark, of Missouri Territory.
On Christmas day, 1808, Mr. SYMMES married Mrs. Mary Anne LOCKWOOD, widow of Captain Benjamin LOCKWOOD, at Fort Adams. She had at that time a family of five daughters and one son. They were brought up and educated by Captain SYMMES as his own family; they were sincerely attached to him, and grew up to maturity with his own children in perfect harmony. There were all married from his house but two, who remained single.
Captain LOCKWOOD at the time of his death owned a section of land in Brown County, Ohio, on which Captain SYMMES regularly paid the taxes, even to the neglect of his own. One of his own tracts, four thousand acres, in Licking County, which would have been a fortune to his children, was forfeited by this neglect. When these children arrived at maturity, he turned over this land, free and unincumbered, neither charging them for the money expended on it nor the care he had taken of it.
Captain SYMMES's trading experience did not result in a pecuniary benefit to him; so, in 1819, he removed from St. Louis, and settled at Newport, Kentucky, where he resided till 1824, when he removed to his farm, a section of land presented to him by his uncle and namesake, which had been previously improved, near Hamilton, Ohio.
While at St. Louis Captain SYMMES promulgated his eccentric "Theory of Concentric Spheres, Polar Voids, and Open Poles." To these investigations relative to the figure of the earth he had devoted many years, and had wrought himself up to a firm and conscientious belief that he had made the great discovery of the age, viz.: "That the earth as well as all the celestial orbicular bodies existing in the inverse, visible and invisible, which partake in any degree of a planetary nature, from the greatest to the smallest, from the sun down to the most minute blazing meteor or falling star, are all constituted, in a greater or less degree, of a collection of spheres, more or less solid, concentric with each other, and more or less open at the poles; each sphere being separated from its adjoining compeers by space replete with aerial fluids; that every portion of infinite space, except what is occupied by spheres, is filled with an aerial elastic fluid, more subtile than common atmospheric air, and constituted of innumerable small concentric spheres, too minute to be visible to the organ of sight assisted by the most perfect microscope and so elastic that they continually press on each other and change their relative situations as often as any piece of matter in space may change its position, thus causing a universal pressure, which is weakened by the intervention of other bodied in proportion to the subtended angle of distance and dimension, necessarily causing the body to move toward the points of decreased pressure." (SYMMES's Theory of Concentric Spheres, p. 25)
In order to make his discoveries and purposes known, he issued the following circular, which, like a lady's letter, is most important for its postscript:
Light gives light to light discover-ad infintium.
ST. LOUIS (MISSOURI TERRITORY), NORTH AMERICA, April 10, A.D. 1818.
TO ALL THE WORLD,--
I declare the earth is hollow and habitable within; containing a number of solid concentrick spheres, one within the other, and that it is open at the poles twelve or sexteen degrees. I pledge my life in support of this truth, and am ready to explore the hollow, if the workd will support and aid me in the undertaking.
Jno. CLVES SYMMES, of Ohio, late Captain of Infantry.
N.B. - I have ready for the press a Treatise on the Principles of Matter, wherein I show proofs of the above positions, account for various phenomena, and disclose Dr. DARWIN's "Golden Secret."
My terms are the patronage of THIS and the NEW WORLDS.
I dedicate to my wife and her ten children.
I select Dr. S. L. MITCHILL, Sir H. DAVY, and Baron Alexander VON HUMBOLDT as my protectors.
I ask one hundred brave companions, well equipped, to start from Siberia, in the Fall season, with reindeer and sleight, on the ice of the frozen sea; I engage we find a warm and rich land, stocked with thrifty vegetables and animals, if not men, on reaching one degree northward of latitude 82. We will return in the succeeding Spring. J.C.S.
Captain SYMMES addressed a copy of this circular to every learned institution and to every considerable town and village, as well as to numerous distinguished individuals, throughout the United States, and sent copies to several of the learned societies of Europe.
Its reception by the public can easily be imagined; it was overwhelmed with ridicule as the production of a distempered imagination, or the result of partial insanity. It was for many years a fruitful source of jest with the newspapers.
The Academy of Science, of Paris, before which the circular was laid by Count Volney, decided that it was not worthy of consideration. The scientific papers of Europe generally treated it as a hoax, rather than believe that any sane man could issue such a circular or uphold such a theory.
Circulars and newspaper articles soon followed circular No. 1, and were kept up for years, despite of the ridicule which was poured on the unfortunate author from all sides. In 1820 Captain SYMMES commenced lecturing on his theory; first at Cincinnati, then at other large towns in the West. The novelty of the subject attracted large audinces; but he failed to make converts who possessed wealth or influence enough to secure the means to test by exploration the truth of his theory. The Western Courier of November 27, 1822, indulges ina dream of what would happen two hundred and twenty-eight years from that time:
"Cincinnati, December 7, 2150. -The marble monument at Newport, which, in 1838, was erected by our ancestors to the memory of that great philanthropist and philosopher, John Cleves SYMMES, fell to the ground on the 5th; its base having been undermined and destroyed by the late unprecedented flood of Licking River.
"Thus the records of fame, when committed solely to such perishable materials, live but a few transitory ages, and ultimately fall in with the general decay; but the memory of SYMMES shall be as unfading and lasting as time itself. We need no frail stones to remind us of his name, who first separated truth from error, and banished ignorance from the world.
"Washington, December 11. -Two members of Congress from the State of California arrived yesterday in this city by the inland route. They inform us that the other (twenty-one) members from that State had proceeded through the canal at the Isthmus of Darien, to Mexico, where it was their intention to join the Mexican members, and charter a vessel for their conveyance to this city.
"The members from Chu-san, in the interior regions, via the North Polar opening, arrived on the 9th inst.; those from Pestchee-le, via the South Pole, reached the United States on the 30th ult.
"New York, December 2. -By the late return of the marshal, it is ascertained that this city, which, for the last two centuries, has been termed mistress of the world, now contains two millions of inhabitants, exclusive of foreigners. Philadelphia, her only rival, is found to contain but one million, five hundred thousand."
In May, 1824, Mr. SYMMES explained his theory at Hamilton, to a large audience with such convincing effect that, after the lecture, they "Resolved, That we esteem SYMMES' Theory of the Earth deserving of serious examination, and worthy of the attention of the American people."
So much did the theory attract popular attention in the West, that the "Polar Expedition" was thought a fit object for a benefit at the Cincinnati Theater, which was given on March 29, 1824. Mr. COLLINS then recited an address, written for the occasion by Moses BROOKS, in which, after recounting the great discoveries to be made, he wound up with-
"Has not Columbia one aspiring son,
By whom th' unfading laurel may be won?
Yes! History's pen may yet inscribe the name
Of SYMMES, to grace her future scroll of fame."
In 1822 he petitioned the Congress of the United States, setting forth his belief of the existence of a habitable and accessible concave to this globe, his desire to embark on a voyage of discovery to one or other of the polar regions, his belief in the great profit and honor his country would derive from such discovery, and praying that Congress would equip and fit out for the expedition two vessels of two hundred and fifty or three hundred tons burden, and grant such other aid as government might deem necessary to promote the object. This petition was presented in the Senate by Colonel Richard M. JOHNSON, a member from Kentucky, on the seventh day of March, 1822, when, after a few remarks, it was laid on the table.
In December, 1823, he forwarded a similar petition to both houses of Congress, which met a similar fate.
In January, 1824, he petitioned the General Assembly of the State of Ohio, praying that body to pass a resolution approbatory of his theory, and to recommend him to Congress for an outfit suitable to the enterprise. This memorial was presented by Micajah T. WILLIAMS, and, on motion, the further consideration thereof was indefinitely postponed.
In 1825 he applied through the American minister at the court of St. Petersburg for permission to accompany the polar expedition then fitting out by the Russian Government, which was readily granted by the chancellor, Count Romanzoff; but the want of means to procure a proper outfit hindered him from accepting the offer.
In one of the copies of the book which was issued to defend his theory, Captain SYMMES left notes on the margin, which give as good an account of his theory as we have seen:
"I hoped, ere this, to have been supported in my new theory of the earth by many pupils, but find that most of those who have written are inclined to oppose me. I would prefer having an advocate to state my views, because, in proportion to their extent, I may subject myself to the imputation of extravagance or ostentation, especially as, while I write, I naturally feel elated with my discovery. I am, perhaps, better fitted for thinking than writing. Reared at the plow, I seldom used a pen, except in a commonplace book, until I changed my plowshare for a sword, at the age of twenty-two, not wherewith to earn a fortune (having already an ample farm by the liberality of my revered uncle, after whom I am named), but to merit and obtain distinction, and accumulate knowledge, which I had seldom tasted but in borrowed books. With respect to the latter, the world is now to judge of my success; and in relation to the former, I at least may say I satisfied myself and fellow-soldiers, if not my country, not only at Bridgewater on our left and the sortie at Fort Erie in the van, but throughout my thirteen years' service, ending the war. I presume few have inquired more devotedly than myself into the reason and origin of all that occurred to view. I remember when at the age of eleven, in Jersey, while reading a large edition of 'Cook's Voyages,' my father, though himself a lover of learning, reproved me for spending so much of my time from work, and said I was a book-worm. About the same age I used to harangue my playmates in the street, and describe how the earth turned round; but then as now, however correct my positions, I got few or no advocates. I must not, however, say I get no advocates; for I have several. I particularly bost of two ladies of bright and well-informed minds, on the banks of the Missouri, who are able and earnest advocates and devoted pupils. To them is due the credit of being the first to adopt what the world is so tardy in admitting. But Colonel DIXON, who has traded on Lake Winnepeg with the Indians, is, I presume, the most important pupil I have obtained; for he has long been actively engaged in the North-west Company for fur-trade. He declared, in our first interviews, that I was certainly correct, and stated to me many important, otherwise inexplicable circumstances occurring high in the north, that were completely solved by my principle. He is regarded by such as have long known him at St. Louis as a gentleman of a very strong and wee-informed mind. In addition to the passive concurrence of several men of thinking minds, among them a venerable member of the American Philosophical Society, in this neighborhood, I have been honored with the offers of several more enterprising spirits to accompany me on the expedition I propose; but as the conditions with regard to my outfit by the world are not yet compiled with, I have not positively accepted of their services. I still hold my life pledged, however, for the general truth of my position and devotion to the exploration. I calculate on the good offices of Grate Britain and France; for they nurse and patronize the sciences with ardor. My wife boasts her descent from the latter, and I, through five ancestors since the first landing at Plymouth, trace mine from the former. From the emperor of Russia, so well known as a patron of scientific enterprise, I flatter myself with much support. I challenge any opposers of my doctrine to show as sound reasons why my theory is not correct as I can show it is. I refer those who seek for truth to Rees's Cyclopedia, and any other books wherein the quadrupeds, fish, and phenomena of high latitudes are treated of; likewise those books that treat of Venus, Mars, and Saturn, where they will find many tests that, if duly considered, must go to prove my position. In the Cyclopedia, under the heads of 'Fishery,' 'Arctic,' 'Herring,' 'Seal,' and all other migrating fishes, it is shown that most, or all of them, retire annually beyond the icy circle during the Winter, and return, increased in fat and numbers, in the Spring; and under the head 'Reindeer' it is stated that this animal passes annually near Hudson's Bay in columns of eight or ten thousand, from north to south, in the months of March and April, and return north in October, as stated under the head of 'Hudson's Bay.' I propose to follow the route taken by the reindeer northward in Siberia, where they depart every Autumn from the river Lena (as Professor ADAMS, of St. Petersburg, states), because it is probably these deer choose the best season and nearest route to fertile and habitable lands, and because we can there obtain domestic reindeer and civilized guides or assistants. I propose returning either in the course of thirty or forty days, or when the deer return in the Spring. It is presumable that man can live where deer thrive. I do not think there are no dangers attendant on such a trip, but believe the object will justify risk in all probably ones. IN plate 17, Vol. XXXIII, Part II, of the Cyclopedia, the figure of Mars, with his equator toward us, exhibits his pole surrounded with single light circles, whose farther sides extend beyond the periphery of his disc. I hence conclude that his poles are open, and that the light reflected by the farther sides of the verges of the opening is refracted so as to appear extended beyond his disc by means of its coming to us through the atmosphere of the nearest verges. It is a well-known fact that refraction is greatest toward the poles of the earth, owing, probably to the dense atmosphere there. The apparent continuation of the margin of his true disc through these rings (if not an imaginary line dotted there), must be the farther verge of the second sphere within rising by refraction, apparently, as far out of the true periphery of the disc. I contend that the space within the circumference of the arctic icy circles, if not hollow or greatly concave, could scarcely afford space or surface to maintain alive and healthy all the fish known to come from thence annually, in the Spring, even if, without resorting to feeding upon each other, this food was inexhaustible and the whole circle water. But floating trees being often found far north of where we see any grow is an impressive circumstance to show it can not be all water, and the fact that those trees are generally such as abound in the tropics, together with several unknown species, shows that there is a hot climate beyond; and the migration of the reindeer, too, shows that moss or other vegetables abound there, and consequently, land. Pinkerton states that the Dutch, who, at different times, got detained by the ice in high latitudes, could find but few fish to eat in the season of Winter, which proves that the migrating fish do not Winter amongst or on this side the ice. I also refer to Dr. Darwin's notes on winds in his "Botanic Garden"-which I never read until after I adopted my theory-where that great, although often extravagant, philosopher declared his belief that there was a great secret, yet to be explained, at the poles, and anticipated that the light of the present age would disclose it. The stone spheroid he found hollow, and somewhat disposed in concentric strata, and the concentric iron nodules he describes deserve to be considered. He states that the seeds of several tropical plants are often found in the seas high north, in a state so recent as to vegetate. I recommend the perusal of MAVOR's and PINKERTON's Voyages, PENNANT and GOLDSMITH on Animated Nature, and HEARNE's and MACKENZIE's Travels, wherein many tests of my position exist. "PINKERTON shows that beyond latitude 75 degrees to the north winds are often warm in Winter; that in midwinter there falls, for several weeks, almost continued rain; and that vegetables and game are more abundant at 80 degrees than at 76 degrees. When my chain of reasoning, drawn from the nature of matter, first led me to the conclusion of hollow spheres and open poles, I merely intended broaching it as a question; but when I found the planets of the heavens and the phenomena and natural history of the polar regions afforded proofs incontestable, I then declared the fact without reserve, and have been considered by many as a madman for my pains. Were I, however, in any degree to feel disconcerted by the playful though ill-timed witticisms of others, I should comfort myself in the reflection that, as soon as I shall succeed in the establishment of my theory, the more it has been deeried the more I shall feel honored in the event. Innovations in science or art most commonly excite opposition. If additional reasons are required, I have an ample fund yet in store for the world."
Among his converts was a young lawyer, Mr. J.N. REYNOLDS, a graduate of Ohio University. With him Captain SYMMES entered into an agreement for a lecturing tour through the Eastern States. They set out in September 1825, accompanied by Anthony W. LOCKWOOD, a stepson of Captain SYMMES, and lectured in various towns in Ohio. In about a month Captain SYMMES was forced to return home in consequence of ill-health. In January, 1826, he rejoined them at Pittsburg, and they proceeded eastward. Some difficulty soon occurred, however; REYNOLDS became dissatisfied, and left them. SYMMES, undaunted by this desertion, or the constant ridicule with which he was met, continued his tour to Philadelphia, New York, Boston, as far as Maine, and even into Canada, lecturing at the various towns through which he passed.
His health was by this time greatly impaired by his constant labors and excitement, and he was reluctantly obliged to give up lecturing. He retired for a time to his native place in New Jersey, where he remained the guest of an old friend of his father, until his health was sufficiently restored to enable him to travel homeward. When he reached Cincinnati, in February, 1829, he was so feeble that he had to be conveyed on a bed placed in a spring-wagon, to his home near Hamilton. He continued gradually to sink, until released by death on the 29th of May, 1829.
His remains were committed to the grave the next day, in the old burying-ground at Hamilton, with military honors. They were covered with a monument, erected by his son, Americus SYMMES, a solid structure of freestone, surmounted with a hollow glove, open at the poles, bearing the following inscriptions:
On the west side-"Captain John C. SYMMES, a native of New Jersey, died in May, 1829, aged forty-nine years and six months."
On the north side-"Captain John Cleves SYMMES was a philosopher, and the originator of 'SYMMES' Theory of Concentric Spheres and Polar Voids.' He contended that the earth is hollow and habitable within."
On the south side-"Captain John Cleves SYMMES entered the army of the United States, as an ensign, in the year 1802. He afterward arose to the rank of captain, and performed daring feats of bravery in the battles of Lundy's Lane and sortie from Fort Erie."
On the abandonment of the burying-ground this monument was left standing, and is now the only one there. The globe has been broken off, and is now to be found in one of the neighboring door-yards.
Captain SYMMES was a man of great simplicity and earnestness of character-a high-minded, honorable, honest, and exemplary man in every walk of life, and was beloved, trusted, and respected by all who knew him.
So fixed in his mind was the belief of the truth of his theory that for ten years, although laboring under great pecuniary embarrassments and buffeted by the ridicule and sarcasm of an opposing world, he persevered in his endeavors to interest others in it, so as to enable him to test its truth by a polar expedition; but without success.
It should now be remembered to his credit that many of the facts and fancies (as the then appeared) which he brought forward in proof of his theory of open polar voids have since been fully corroborated by the observations of Drs. KANE and HAYES and Captain HALL, but applied by them to the more plausible theory of open polar seas.
Captain SYMMES's widow survived him, and made her home most of the time with her oldest son, Americus, though she spent much of her time visiting other members of the family. She died August 5, 1864, at Mattoon, Illinois, while on a visit to her son, Dr. Wm. H. H. SYMMES, who was at that time residing there.
They had five children: Louisiana, Americus, William Henry Harrison, Elizabeth, and John Cleves.
Americus SYMMES is a strong believer in his father's theory, and has spent much time in elucidating it. A few years ago he published a book giving the additional facts which had been discovered since the death of his father.