"THE VERMONT FREE PRESS."
EXTRACT OF A LETTER FROM THE EDITOR, HON. Z. EASTMAN.
Chicago, Ill., June 30, 1874.
To the Chairman of the Committe of Arrangements:—
It is now a little more than forty years ago that I first set my foot in Fayetteville. I remember the day well ; and my weary drive and walk, and the anxious looking for the place where I was to find rest for the sole of my foot and occupation for body and mind, as I wended my way up the valley of the West River, with a team and wagon loaded with the press and type with which I was to commence the vocation of my life as a printer and editor. Yours to me was then an unexplored region. James A. Tenny had preceded me and arranged for my coming as his partner. In the woods below Mr. Kidder's shop, I thought the place very distant, as the sun had then gone down behind the hill, but I soon emerged from the dark wood to Kidder's factory, and soon other buildings came in sight, the Merrifield farm house, and there were signs of coming to light ; and soon I came to the bridge across your little river, below what was then Green's saw mill, and at the end of the straight road leading up through the heart of the village, I had the whole glory of Fayetteville directly before me, sleeping so quietly amid the hills that surrounded it. And it was to me a pleasant sight. I felt as if I had got to the end of a toilsome journey. I was most cordially received by the citizens. I had come there to establish a newspaper. I was then but a boy, less than eighteen years of age. My arrival must have been about the middle of May, 1834, for I think the first number of my paper
was dated June 7, 1834. Looking upon it now, after a period of forty years, I can say it is a creditable looking sheet, so far as the printing is concerned. Your town ought to have had a continuous paper from that day to the present. The competing newspapers were the Brattleboro Messenger, by the then venerable Mr. Nichols, the Enquirer at Brattleboro, by E. G. Ryther, and the Bellows Falls Intelligencer. I suppose these newspapers have been swamped in the deluge of time, as the Vermont Free Press was, although my little sheet was the first to go under.
Of the citizens of Fayetteville who first hailed me I would remember to mention the Hon. Austin Birchard, Dr. Olds, Mr. Dunklee, the jolly landlord, Anthony Jones, who used to wake the morn with his shrill whistle, and meant to make the whole village happy with ready fun, broad jokes and broad laugh, and a peculiar kind of innocent oath, he would occasionally let off, which I now have in mind. Such a person could not help but be a smiling picture, and prominent mark in my recollection. Dr. Perry, who used to drive over almost daily from Brookline, in his gig, is a prominent figure yet. I remember with great profit my friends and distant relatives, the Fields, especially Charles K. and Roswell M. The former, I presume, still resides with you. R. M. went to St. Louis, having a western passion like myself, where, obtaining distinction in his profession, he died. I used to be very intimate with him, and I think his splendid genius and intellect had much influence over me in those early days. In his office was the then young Oscar L. Shafter, studying law, and with him I became quite intimate; and I always highly respected him. He, as you remember, went to California, became prominent and died about a year ago, one of the associate justices of the State. It was in the office of R. M. Field, while Shafter was there a student, that I first heard of the murder of Lovejoy, at Alton, in defence of the freedom of the Press. I then said I would go to Illinois and print an abolition paper, or something like it, if I died for it. That proved in the end a prophetic utterance in part, for I did come to Illinois and edited the leading Anti-Slavery paper here, for fifteen years, and I am yet alive. Oscar L. Shafter was at that early day an
abolitionist. He wrote a series of articles in my Vermont Free Press, as you will see (as I understand it is to have a place in the procession) on the question, which he answered, "Is the African Negro a man?"
I went to Fayetteville to make there my first start in business and in the calling and mission of my life. I started out to be a professional journalist. The Vermont Free Press, which you have in your midst, was my first venture. I cannot say that it was a pecuniary success. I lost in it some portion of my patrimony saved for me through my orphanage. But I believe it was a profitable loss. It gave me early experience in business and in human nature and in my profession. My would-be partner abandoned me, a boy, to take care of himself. With a little pluck and a little money I staid on to see the end, I might say the ruin of my hopes. I found at any rate, as many a New England boy has found, that the place in which Providence planted him was either too small or too large. I found Fayetteville not wholly the place suited to my aspirations. In 1836 I turned my face to the westward. That country, at least, is large enough for any person, or small enough, and a free choice can be made. I found in the West many people who had emigrated from Vermont. I became partially acquainted with S. A. Douglas who was a Vermonter, and Abraham Lincoln who was not a Vermonter. Of the two I found Mr. Lincoln's the most profitable as a partial acquaintance. But as I live with a Vermont wife, I have proved that the Vermonters are the most agreeable for intimate acquaintance. I have seen your Vermont people and Windham County people in all parts of the West, and I have ever found those I would gladly acknowledge as friends. Vermont has helped largely to make the greatness of the West. You may be proud of Vermont transplanted to the prairies.
My life since I left your peaceful village has not been wholly a failure. I early took a forward movement in that great question in saving the country, by the eradication of the curse of slavery. I helped doctor the patient — but my friend Lincoln cut that cancer out with his sword. I have had an adventurous life. Providence has been my guiding star. Six times I have crossed the Atlantic. I have lived eight years
in a foreign land. I have looked princes in the face, and I have found them no more worthy than men who keep sheep in your mountain pastures, or make sugar from the maples on your hills. I have lived in a great city which had only 8,000 people in it when I first saw it. I now see it with 400,000 inhabitants. I have seen the larger part of it consumed in a day to ashes, carrying away a small fortune of my own. I have seen it come again like Jonah's gourd, but as substantial as stone and brick can make it. In all this experience I have thought of the town you celebrate as the great starting point of all. While tossed upon the ocean waves I have thought of the quiet of your homes. While reposing in foreign lands, in the beautiful country we call our mother England, or in the whirl of giddy Paris, or 'mid the ice mountains of Switzerland, I have dreamed of your village as Alexander Selkirk dreamed of his native land, and at once I seemed to be there. One of the great expectations of my future has been my return visit. I have ever meant to drop down suddenly among you. This would have been a favorable opportunity if I were not previously engaged. But I still hope to fulfill my expectations. When I do I would like to meet the children of the fathers and mothers I knew and tell you the story of my life.