- Introductory Comments -
Leroy Milton6 Yale (Amerton5, Nash4, John3, Thomas2, Thomas1) was born on December 21, 1802 in Meriden,
CT, the son of Amerton Yale (1756-1807) and his second wife, Mercy
Scoville (1767- 1851) of Wallingford and Meriden, CT. Leroy was
only five years old when his father died and he spent his youth
with his brother Burrage who was almost twenty years his senior.
He graduated in medicine from Harvard in 1829. From there he went
to Holmes Hole (now Vineyard Haven) where he married Maria Allen
Luce of Tisbury on April 23, 1838.
Maria Allen7 Luce (Timothy6, Timothy5, Stephen4, Zephaniah3, Experience2, Henry Luce1) was born on 13 Sept. 1816 in Tisbury, the daughter of Timothy Luce Jr. and Jane Smith. Charles Banks claimed erroneously on p. 278 of The History of Martha's Vineyard, Vol. III that Maria was the daughter of Elisha Luce. It has since been definitely established that Maria and her brother Jirah Luce (1819-1880) were actually the children of Timothy and Jane Luce of Tisbury.
They had five children, all born in Holmes Hole:
Eliza Osborn Yale, born February 6, 1839.
She died of croup on July 25, 1843 and is buried at Village Cemetery,
Leroy Milton Yale Jr., born February 12, 1841.
Amerton Yale, born September 24, 1843.
Sarah S. B. Yale, born January 4, 1846.
Albina Daggett Yale, born March 16, 1848.
All of the children were probably born in a house
near the intersection of South Main Street and Beech Street in
Holmes Hole, later destroyed in the famous fire of 1883. Leroy
Jr. wrote a piece for Scribner's Magazine (July 1901) in which
he described the house: "The house in which I was born, and
in which I came to know Uncle David (David was the subject of
the article), was built just at the end of the Revolution, and
had been rather a considerable one as things went there and then.
It stood at a sharp curve of the village main street where it
gave off a short branch, and not far from the convergence of the
roads coming from several others villages and the county beyond."
About 1941, Dr. Yale's granddaughter Julia Milton
(Yale) Cornwell wrote about the elder Dr. Yale in The Island
Doctor, Dr. Leroy Milton Yale. [Click here to read it.]
Leroy Milton Yale kept a medical journal during his
stay in Tisbury which starts in 1831 and ends regular entries
in 1841 (two additional entries were added in 1842 and 1846.)
It is about 63 pages in length. It is a unique document, as many
of the deaths he attended during 1831-1841 went unrecorded by
the town and do not appear in Vital Records of Tisbury to 1850.
[Click here to see a sample.]
Dr. Yale died of "ship fever" in Tisbury
on 11 March 1847, aged 47. Maria appeared as a thirty-three year
old widow on the Tisbury census of 1850 with her four surviving
children and her mother-in-law, Mercy Yale. Maria and her children
removed to Brooklyn, NY shortly after where she died on 31 Jan.
1861 of "Typhoid Fever / Fracture of Thighs."
Dr. and Mrs. Yale are buried in the southwest part
of Village Cemetery in Vineyard Haven.
The following biography was written by Dr. Yale's
son, Dr. Leroy Yale Jr. It appears here with the kind permission
of Marion Carey Alton and was transcribed by Elizabeth V. Brady,
with the help of Susan Witzell and Tom Morse.
On that afternoon in the early July of 1829 the old wharf was a pleasant enough lounging place for anybody who had the heart to lounge at all. But the row of boys sitting on the string piece and the two or three adults leaning against the pile heads considered themselves rather actively engaged. It had already been well established that scups had come. Everyone knows that along shore the scup is the marine analogue of the bluebird or the dandelion in things aerial and terrestrial. Its appearance announces the arrival of summer. The group upon the wharf was occupied in still further verifying this great fact of nature and incidentally in catching its supper.
The fishing was not so pressing as to preclude conversation. In that old Federalist village politics were rarely in a very acute state owing to the usual absence at sea of a great part of its voting population. Of late it had felt those influences which had brought General Jackson to the Presidency and Captain Billy and his neighbors on the wharf had exchanged a few perplexed observations regarding the newly promulgated theory of the distribution of spoils and had wondered who in the country would benefit by it. Their interest was rather academical however as they well knew that no offices were coming to them. In the intervals of nibbles their eyes swept the harbor-mouth, the hedge fence and the horizon beyond with that unconscious scrutiny common to seafaring men and to hunters. Sloops and schooners and an occasional brig, helped along by the west tide, cleared the East Chop and, dancing across to the West Chop - wings of the watery stage - disappeared. The semaphore on the eastern point hung its arms idly as if enjoying the mild atmosphere and soft fleecy clouds. Uncle Billy and his mates returned occasional remarks of identification or surmise regarding the passing craft: drogers from Salca (?) or Saco, trim southbound Boston packets and all the pageant of by-gone coastwise trade.
Presently the headsail of a craft showed over the Chop. All hands were alert, for they knew the hoist of her jib. "There's Cap'n 'Bijah," said one and all agreed. "He's made time this trip." "Yes, leadin' breeze today & smooth enough for Jimmy Godfrey," and so on for all the rest of it. Cap'n 'Bijah ran a weekly packet to Boston, going up around the Cape in the early part of the week & returning in time to Sunday at home. His craft furnished the chief freight transportation between the little port & the great city.
"John Huin," said Cap'n Billy, "just went up to Squire Hillman's & told him
Cap'n 'Bijah's comin'. Perhaps the new doctor's aboard and he'll want to know." Fishing was suspended as Cap'n 'Bijah made up to the wharf & got a line around a spile. Presently there had collected on the wharf quite a little company, shopkeepers expecting goods, people who had charged Cap'n 'Bijah with commissions in town and the whole contingent of Athenian minded citizens. Each transacted his business as best he might. When a lull fell, Squire Hillman and one or two companions who had stood a little aloof stepped up to Cap'n 'Bijah who, turning to a passenger who had been sitting upon the companion way, watching the little commotion of the arrival and enjoying the beauty of the harbor and the rather quaint village along its shore, introduced himself to the Squire as Doctor Yale.
He was a young man of good height and bulk, erect but sparely built. He was evidently a town dweller, his pale skin showing the sunburn of the little voyage. His hair was of rather dark brown, his "regulation" whiskers decidedly reddish, his eyes large and very blue, his shaven upper lip rather long for beauty, his mouth firm as was his chin which was deeply dimpled.
A short walk through the sandy streets brought him to the "Mansion House," in which he was presently installed into the usual comforts of a rural inn.
The little village had a custom - perhaps it was not an uncommon
one - of calling a physician with something of the formality that
attended the call of a pastor. Just now the community had been
disturbed to discover that it was to lose its medical man. He
(Dr. Fisher) had been with them not so many years, but he had
made himself valued. But he was to marry and the lady persuaded
him to remove to the village where she resided and where an opening
seemed to offer itself. It was not very remote, but too far from
this village to depend upon its medical men and a new resident
must be secured. To this end a meeting was called. Not only
was a physician desired but one of some quality. So a committee
was appointed which should write to the Medical Faculty of Harvard
stating the probable value of the practice and asking that there
should be sent to it the man of the best qualifications and character
who should be willing to undertake it. On the whole a very clever
method of protecting their community from incompetence and charlatanry.
I have been told that this meeting was held just after the young
medical man arrived on this little trip and that Cap'n 'Bijah
seized the opportunity to tell the meeting that he had with him
a passenger, a Mr. Yale, who just passed satisfactorily his examination
at the Harvard Medical School. He had boarded, he said, during
his pupillage with Miss Daggett, whom they all knew. Miss Daggett
was a Vineyard woman who resided in Boston where she kept a boarding
house, which was also a house of call for all Vineyarders going
there. On his frequent visits Cap'n 'Bijah himself had often
met this young man and had been attracted to him. Miss Daggett
praised him for a religious and orderly person. The tax of the
session had rather worn upon him and Miss Daggett had persuaded
the young man to make the round trip with Cap'n 'Bijah, while
he waited for his degree at Commencement. I believe however that
this story is a little erroneous and that the meeting & Cap'n
'Bijah's participation in it had been somewhat earlier and that
the trip & its result had been the result of some plans of
Miss Daggett & the Captain. For I find the certificate of
a special examination for his degree on June 2, 1829 and also
the following letter, written in the beautiful penmanship of those
days, which plainly shows that his visit was anticipated
The letter is addressed to "Doct. Yale at the boarding House of Miss Daggett corner of Milk & Federal Streets, Boston," a part of that city which long ago ceased to contain residences.
Holmes Hole June 20th, 1829
This day the Inhabitants of this Village held a meeting on the subject of the removal of Doct. Fisher at which meeting it was mentioned your having signified your design to make a Visit at which meeting a committee were appointed to superintend the buzness and should you come as they wish you may to meet & bid you welcome you will not take it amiss if I recomend you bringing your diploma and any other documents you may think proper should any Sircumstances necessarily delay your coming in your answer to this you will be particular to state at what time we may expect you.
Most respectfully yours,
(to Dr. Yale in behalf of the committee)
The young Doctor evidently responded promptly in person. His professional memoranda show that he was already the village physician as early as July. Among the "documents" which he probably took with him is a letter of commendation dated July 15th signed by Amasa Walker and five others, all presumably Citizens of position in Boston. But as the Commencement did not occur that year until August 26th his Certificate of Examination had to serve until that time in place of the "diploma." In due time this was sent to him. I have it still in its old blue-gray wrapper addressed "In Care of Captain Abijah Luce."
So began the life of Dr. Yale on Martha's Vineyard. His letters show that he thought his residence there only a temporary arrangement. But there his life took root, there his hand found its work and there the weeping villagers laid him away when that work was done.
The young Doctor had been rather a wanderer for a landsman in those days of little travel. He had been born in the Connecticut town of Meriden. Common country people before the Revolution had little wealth and his family seems to have been poor. His grandfather was Nash Yale. This Nash was a great-grandson of Thomas, the immigrant from whom all the Connecticut Yales descend and was grandson of another Thomas, the next older brother of Elihu. Elihu, who was, of course, Nash's great uncle, left America when he was ten years old. He never returned, had no sons, but as godfather to a university he has become the best known of his race.
Nash Yale, aforesaid, had two sons Nash and Amerton, the latter getting his mother's maiden name as a given name. The two Nashes, father and son, served in the army of the Revolution. I have an old letter from a relative living in Meriden rather glorifying that while others were bettering their condition at home these members of our family were fighting for the freedom of the Colonies even if to the pecuniary disadvantage of their descendants. Be that as it may, we need not today regret that they did fight. The younger son, Amerton, born in 1756, did not, so far as I know, enlist. He seems to have been the Benjamin left to comfort his mother.
But, not later than 1780, Amerton had married. In a few years his wife died, leaving him with a son, Burrage, and a daughter, Lucy. January 21, 1790, he married again, this time taking for his wife Mercy Scoville (born March 29, 1767). To them were born seven children, the sixth of whom, born December 21st, 1802 - the one whose tale I am telling - was given the name of Leroy Milton.
In the early days of May 1855 I went with my mother to visit Meriden. She had spent the previous winter in New York where I had joined her in March. On leaving the city she had arranged with Aunt Lucy Wilcox, Leroy's half sister, to meet her in Meriden and visit some of the places connected with our family history. Before Aunt Lucy's arrival we made a visit of two days to Miss Clarine K. Yale, who was more nearly related to us on the Scoville side than on the Yale. She took us to the site of the old Scoville house beneath Lamentation Mountain which in the gray chilly weather, one of those days so well characterized by Lowell as, "May, which is so much like May or February" seemed to well deserve its name. With Aunt Lucy we visited the "old Amerton Yale place" still recognized as such by its owner, Mr. Bertrand G. Yale, although Amerton Yale had been dead already nearly half a century. As I recall it, it was a typical New England farm house of a story and a half with the conventional L kitchen extension. A grassy bank sloped from its left side down to a little brook beside which grew some water willows. I did not enter the house, but from the willows I took a number of cuttings, which took root and grew with the rapidity characteristic of the water willow after I set them in the damp soil at the bottom of our garden on the Vineyard.
September 29, 1807, before Leroy was five years old, his father died. The son of the first marriage was already established in business in South Reading (now Wakefield) Massachusetts and he soon after married.
The daughter Lucy was already the wife of Eli Wilcox of Middleton, Conn. The widow was left with the five who survived of her seven children. Long widowhood seems to have been exceptional in that region. At all events a few years later just how many I do not know but I think not above five - she married (a certain George Jones) a widower with a family. This seems to have been not a fortunate "venture." I remember that the old lady described him as "shiftless," not inappropriately as her first suspicion of his want of thrift seems to have been when a neighbor called to reclaim the shirt he had lent him for the marriage ceremony.
Sometime after this she removed to New York State. She seems to have there been with her husband's family and also with some of her own kindred, the Scovilles. Of this part of her life I know little. She rarely spoke of it, she seemed willing to forget it and preferred coming to Martha's Vineyard to be called "Grandmother Yale." She resided in a number of places in New York. She used to tell me of "living on the frontier at Buffalo;" in 1835 she was at Oran, and her home in 1838 was at Pompey, Onondaga County.
In 1828 she had again become a widow and it is very probable that her residence was with her relatives, the Scovilles, began then. I believe that all her children went to New York with her. One daughter married and died there. I do not feel entirely certain whether Leroy was with her or not, for I have very scant account of him before he went to live with his brother Burrage. From a letter which he wrote in 1835 to his niece, Susan Hitchcock, who was then with her grandmother, Mrs. Jones, at Oran, N.Y., it seems that he had been with his married sister, Myranda Hitchcock, just previous to going to Burrage. It is hard for us, in our time of constant and easy communication, to understand how completely in those days families might be broken up and the members lose track of each other. In this letter expressing his gratification at being again in touch with his kindred he says, "I have lost the names and knowledge of you all." Farther on he says, "But to tell you a short story, when I left your father's," (the context shows that this was in Southington, Conn) "I went to live with Burrage & learned to make tin. Since then I went to school for some years, then studied medicine and have since been in the practice of it for the last six years in this place."
The story that I have heard often is that the boy was about seven years old at the time he went to his brother's house and that he made the journey in part by canal with a bag of doughnuts as his commissary supplies. I have never been able to quite make this story clear, since at the time he was seven years of age I believe the only canal existing in the United States, was the old Middlesex in Massachusetts which would hardly have been upon his road. The story may be true, but the age incorrect. I believe that it is, for he last saw his mother when he was twelve and this is quite certainly before he went to South Reading. Be this as it may, he safely reached his brother and grew up in his family. The brother was a thrifty married man nearly twenty-two years his senior. The brother's wife was eighteen or nineteen years older than the little boy and treated him with a kindness which he never forgot, and he testified his regard for her by giving to his own daughter her maiden name, Sarah Boardman.
When Leroy was old enough he learned the trade of tinsmith in the factory of his brother whose wagons peddled his wares over a wide extent of New England, in whose villages and along whose rural highways the tin-wagon was in those days & for years afterward was a familiar sight. His natural dexterity made him rapidly skillful at the craft. Another tinsmith once told me that the youth in his apprentice days had sometimes turned out in a day half as much again of ware as was considered a good days work. And I know that as long as he lived he kept the tools stored away in a nook in the apothecary room, and when he could spare the time he liked to show that he had not forgotten the handicraft.
While he was thus skillful and diligent his heart was not in this sort of work. He had a desire for an education which would permit him to do better things. A tale I often heard in my childhood was this: He was supposed to be in bed by a certain early hour. He preferred to give a part of his sleep for study and reading. Lest his light should betray him it was his habit to save all obtainable candle ends and to shut himself in to a closet where he could safely read by their light. Before he was twenty he had a definite plan. His brother so far favored it as to release him from the last year of his apprenticeship; so that at the age of twenty he went as a pupil to the Bradford Academy under the charge of Benjamin Greenleaf, a prominent teacher of the time. When he had acquired sufficient education to justify his so doing he began the study of medicine. He registered as was the custom then with Dr. Francis Kittredge, his apprenticeship dating from June 8, 1826. Later I find him registered as a pupil, in Boston, of Drs. Walter Channing & Jackson. The latter I think was Dr. John B. S. Jackson rather than Dr. James. Of the student friends he made in those years I know the names of but few. These are Dr. Benjamin Cutter, many years a practitioner in Woburn, Mass., Dr. A. A. Gould & Dr. Perry of Boston and Dr. Willard Parker long a distinguished surgeon of New York.
To meet all the expenses of his education he had very little money. From the time he began to study at the Academy until he began to practice medicine there is an interval of nearly seven years. Whether in those years he worked at intervals at his trade I do not know. I find a certificate given by Mr. Greenleaf in 1824 of his competence as a school teacher in English, but I do not know that he ever taught. He borrowed money from his brother on the security of a life assurance policy. To obtain the facts necessary for the application for this policy he wrote to his mother in New York, who gave him the exact date of his birth and the ages which his forebears had reached. This passage in her answer impressed me. "Your grandmother, my mother, was named Hannah Hough. She died at the age of 86 and lived to bury five husbands, whose names were as follows: " What her especial charms were I have never heard. I hope that she had all those several qualities which James gives to "The wisdom that is from above," but she must, at least, have been "Easy to be entreated." Of these various husbands only one, James Scoville, particularly concerns us, as he was the father of Mercy Scoville, who became the wife of Amerton Yale, and the mother of seven of his children. Of the nine children, in all, born to Amerton Yale only the young physician, his older brother Eli Amerton and his half brother, Burrage, & half sister, Lucy, were living in 1829.
During his pupillage in Boston his amusements seem to have been of a rather serious sort. About this only one open to a devout church member, or an orderly youth of any kind, in that place and time seems to have been music. He had a very good voice, then called bass, which I think would today be called a baritone, and had learned to use it skillfully. Among his earliest bills after he began to practice, I find one for a flute, but in my memory the instrument had passed to my maternal uncle and my father never used it.
Another taste which he had developed was a fondness for natural history. From hints in letters I infer that some of his fellow students were similarly interested. At all events, his classmate with whom he corresponded for quite a long time, Dr. A. A. Jones, became a rather well known conchologist and writer on some other scientific matters. This accomplishment of singing and his taste for science helped him through his earlier years of practice in surroundings where, as we shall see, he very much missed the intellectual stimulus of lectures, libraries and good preaching to which he had become accustomed in Bradford and Boston.
We left the young Doctor at the village inn. At this inn, he settled down and it became his home until, nine years later, he married and began a home of his own. The inn was then kept by a man named Timothy Luce and his wife, Jane, rather strictly speaking, by her. For, besides her natural ability for business, she had an incentive to take the lead in the broken health of her husband, who survived a little more than a year after the Doctor came to their house. They had two children; a daughter, who had completed her thirteenth year and a son who had entered his twelfth.
Of the earlier years of practice in that village there is but scant record or tradition. That is to say, as regards those personal matters we might like to know of an ancestor. For a few years he kept a journal in which he wrote at intervals, nearly all of its entries lie between 1832 and 1842. It reveals the man quite as much as by what it does not record as by what it does. Primarily it is a medical notebook. Troublesome or interesting cases are written down. There is, besides, a long list of the births of the village & neighborhood for twenty years, which at intervals were duly reported to the town clerk. Occasionally he makes general comments on epidemics or gives his views concerning some disease as when he states his belief in the advantage to consumptives of an outdoor life with exercise, riding and "such other efforts as could consistently be made with farming tools, a generous diet of meat, steak, fowls, fish, wine," while he is equally sure of the harm arising from confinements to the house, constant medication and too spare a diet.
He makes note of his reading. In Boston as a student he had been a great reader, the list of books he gives as read within a given time seems enough to have filled it without other occupations. He continued this habit, but medical reading necessarily limited the time he could give to books of a more general culture. Nor are politics, domestic and international overlooked. As the campaign of 1840 drew on, his whiggery, which was keen, was aroused. Campaign issues are fully stated and, as he was a strong believer in a stable Civil Service, the spoils system of Jackson gave him great annoyance.
There is pretty constant reference to the conditions of churches and of religious matters in the village. These were matters of very genuine concern to him as was evidenced years afterward in his expending what for him was a very large sum in the building of a church. The slack state of the churches, the union meetings, poorly attended, the poor quality of the preaching as a rule, the attempts at separate places of worship are duly chronicled. Where by any chance he hears a good sermon it is sure to be mentioned. Of the Dedication Services of the Congregational Church at West Tisbury he says "the sermon was excellent, though the singing was bad, owing to want of numbers." Even his devotion cannot overlook bad music.
With all this, he is puzzled at the lack of public spirit, the dislike of anyone enjoying prosperity or wealth beyond mediocrity, the jealousy of any citizen not native born sharing in public affairs, as if the natives had a vested right in them. He did not know that these were common to all small places and strong in proportion to isolation. His life had been spent in busy places, with shifting populations & recognized differences in social status. Perhaps too he did not understand that after the institution of the voluntary tithe system of church support, the first result tended to church neglect and that denominational feeling is active in proportion as religious feeling is dormant. He was learning to understand what Captain Matthew Luce, already a merchant in New Bedford, but a native of the village, had meant when he told him that he was going to settle among a people "full of spite and piety." But he lived to see temperance reform and renewed vitality in religious matters, and he records with evident satisfaction the formation of a debating society.
But next to religious matters in his consideration came natural history. As his journal ends with a minute about the church which he had been instrumental in building, it begins with one regarding the visitation of the seventeen year locusts. Meteorology, eclipses, the great meteor shower of 1833 all come in for due mention, but early in that year he writes that "the subject that occupies the most of my leisure moments at present is that of conchology" and that he had been made happy by "a lot of fresh water shells received this week from Dr. Jay of New York. Dr. Jay was a distinguished collector and his collection is now in the Natural History Museum of New York. A few weeks later he was elected a Corresponding Member of the Boston Society of Natural History. Next year he is rejoiced at finding "some slipper shells spawning." His interest in natural science remained active. I find repeated acknowledgments from the Boston Society of contributions he had made to its cabinets. Also in 1837 I find notices from the younger Silliman that he had been elected a corresponding member of the New Haven (Yale) Natural History Society and a similar notice from the Hartford Natural History Society. While he was interested in all natural science, his situation gave him special opportunity for the study of conchology & ichthyology and these he especially followed. His friends, Dr. Gould and Dr. Stover, in preparing their well known State reports of the shells & fishes of the old Commonwealth, called upon him with friendly freedom & were met in the same spirit.
Finding all these matters, we find also a remarkable reserve regarding personal affairs. He does note, "1838, April 23, was married to Maria A. Luce. Started same day to visit my Mother whom I have not seen for 24 years. She resides in Pompey, N. York" & also gives the names of the Scoville relatives whom he saw. But he did not enter the birth of his first and dearly loved child until two years later. It is mentioned incidentally in connection with my own birth, which latter appears only as an appendix to the weather & shipping reports of the few previous days. A singular shyness in this Puritan blood which shrinks from verbal expression of a tenderness, which every act betrays.
The quotation just given from the journal shows the happy termination of the young physician's romance. The little maid at the inn, not thirteen when he went there, had been growing older. She was short, plump, blackeyed and sprightly in her manner. There is indeed a tradition that before coming to the Vineyard he had seen her with her mother at Miss Daggett's house in Boston and had been attracted to the child with braids down her back. She and her girlfriends often frolicked so freely with the rather grave Doctor that their elders would check them with, "girls, you forget that the Doctor's a young man" or some such word of warning. The doctor evidently had an interest in the little girl and partly, at least, through his influence she was sent to her first boarding school, the Bradford Academy, in the same town where he had earlier been a pupil. Here she spent the summer of 1831 returning home about her fifteenth birthday. Among new companions at this school was Octavia Yale, daughter of Burrage Yale, and seemingly rather a favorite niece of the doctor. She made some visits at Uncle Burrage's at vacation time & I think going up or returning with her mother. In one of her letters to her mother she mentions having received, "Dr. Yale's' letter with the rest, I don't know how he came to write to me." Perhaps the Doctor already knew why though to the young girl he doubtless seemed much too old to compete with the younger admirers already quite in evidence. Nevertheless, she is interested to find that one of her teachers is an old friend of the Doctor's and couldn't help wondering how much of a friend she was.
In October 1833, when Maria was just past her seventeenth birthday, she went to the Ipswich Academy, a noted girls school of the time. Among her teachers there was Mary Lyon who in later letters she mentioned founding her "new institution located at South Hadley." At Ipswich she remained six months & these months seemed to have been too much for the Doctor's nerves. There are no letters found from him or to him, but the members of the family writing to her reveal it. He had become consciously her lover with the mother's approval & the bystanders evidently assumed that he must be successful. Business took him to Boston, something else took him to Ipswich. The maiden of seventeen had not so clearly seen the road as the man of thirty-one. Supposing himself trifled with, he asked for a definite answer. But she was too wise to accept until she knew her heart and was forced sadly to decline. But the Doctor, so the elders have told me, would say in a determined way "I'll have her yet." And he did.
Their wedding trip would seem rather peculiar now. To get to Pompey, they had no drawing room cars or through trains. They left the Vineyard by sailing packet or the old steamboat. This took them to New Bedford.
A stage coach of some sort took them to Newport, where a steamboat ran to New York. The voyage up the Hudson was made by old time steam boat & from Albany to Pompey the canal boat was the principal conveyance, and they left it at some point near that town, most likely at Syracuse. My mother told me of this journey, but more of the, to us, unusual method of travel than of details of places.
It must have been a strange sensation to Grandmother Yale, already in her 73d year, to see her son, whom she had last seen as a child of 12, as a man of 36, settled in life with a young wife. But she was evidently not displeased at the sight. She quickly determined that she preferred to finish her days with them than to remain where she was, for a few months later she appeared, without previous notice or at least without previous arrangement, on the Vineyard. On a flyleaf of her old bible I find in her hand writing this entry: "September 22, 1838 I left Pompey for Holmes Hole. I came here at 28." Six days were required for such a journey which can now be easily done within twenty four hours. But she took such comfort as she could in travel. She sat in her little straightbacked rocking chair (which Mrs. Carey now has) all the way, on the canal boats, steamboats or what ever conveyance she used where a chair could be placed. She sat in it habitually during her waking hours during the twelve years she continued to live. She left the chair to Miss Dunham "because she had rocked Amerton" (who was her favorite grandchild, probably because of his name) "to sleep." Miss Dunham left it to her favorite, Miss Carey. Although her coming was a surprise, she was made welcome and comfortable in her son's house and in it she outlived him, dying in her eighty-fifth year.
Just at the moment of her arrival her son was invited by a large number of citizens of Edgartown to remove thither. I presume that this was due to the practical retirement of Dr. Fisher from practice, his lucrative manufacturing ventures engrossing his attention. The invitation was not accepted. The same kind of influences which led Dr. Fisher to leave the smaller village would lead Dr. Yale to remain. He did remain. He bought the house which was his home for the last of his life & of his family for so long as they remained upon the Vineyard. The next year his first child, Eliza, was born, and the usual result of an enlargement of the house followed at once.
Before his marriage he had already practiced at the village about ten years. His character was formed, his reputation established, his friendships well begun. They could be only continued & perfected by the years which remained to him. Such important changes as came to him were within his own household. To him came children, five in all; but his first born stayed but four and a half years. To his home from time to time came his kindred, some from places remote in those days of old fashioned modes of travel, and the friends of earlier days, old fellow students & former pupils. These far away friends were all the more to him as many of his nearby men friends could be such only in the short intervals between long voyages. As well as he could he kept in touch with them and of their valued letters, scientific & personal, he seems to have destroyed none.
There is in the life of a country physician, of any physician indeed, something of a picturesqueness & variety; but there is nevertheless a sameness in the variety. Only the local color varies. For him was the village round, the calls of passing ships or coastwise craft, the trips across the harbor and inlets, and the drives to the nearer and farther hills. In his earlier years he rode a good deal, his saddlebags behind him. Not long ago a very aged man told me with great glee how, having gone twelve miles for the Doctor and knowing the speed of the Doctor's horse, he forced him into a stern chase by whipping up while the doctor was mounting with his horse's head turned the other way.
But in my memory he was rarely in the saddle; the two wheeler high "Boston Chaise" was his usual conveyance. The roads had become a trifle better, but were still bad enough. On short trips I was sometimes taken and in fine weather as far as the villages six or seven miles away. Even from these drives, when I was seven or less, I have kept something of his teaching of plants, but I think that his attempts to teach me to sing were fruitless. The saddle bags were under the chaise seat. His pockets were filled with medicine cases & a broken phial was not an unusual accident. I can see my mother with her laughing brown eyes and dimpled cheeks - she was barely thirty then - trying to scold as she cleaned the medicine stains from his coat. Once he got a coat of dark brown "gold-mixed," for in those days garments had to be made by the village tailor from such stuff as the local shops afforded. The gold silk threads gave it a color which justified mother's nickname of "the rhubarb coat." "Never mind," said he, "it will show the tinctures less."
I recall, too, his winter riding garb; his fur cap with a visor, his red, knitted neck-wrap, which I still have, and the long black surtout overcoat with its large carved buttons of mother of pearl. These buttons, with their firm metal eyelet's, seemed never to break and passed from garment to garment. They were kept after his death as a characteristic of their wearer. In turn I have worn them in my earlier days and still keep them for another generation to wear. It was in this garb that I remember him standing one afternoon, cleared after a drifting snowstorm, waiting for Allen to bring the sleigh that he might answer a call "Down the Neck." The mischievous youth preferred to bring a pung of his own manufacture, with runners of oak limbs. He returned triumphant, telling how he had succeeded in throwing the Doctor into a snow drift.
His home life, necessarily limited by his calls away from it, was simple and gentle. By example, rather than by precept he taught us all the lesson to be helpful to all and to choose the best for companionship.
Of sports he had few. I do not know that he ever shot. When venison came to our table it had fallen to the gun of Dr. Fisher, who "was a mighty hunter before the Lord." He had little time for fishing. Occasionally he could get a summer afternoon in the harbor, not too far from possible calls, and the fine trout line of dark green silk that sometimes got into the chaise-box made me wonder if Papa ever played a little when his rides took him to the hills.
Natural history continued to be his chief, his serious, recreation. The cases which filled the length of the consultation room were arranged to suit both his vocation and his avocation. The solid doors below hiding professional books from prying eyes, glass doors above revealing shells, birds, insects and natural objects of various kinds. His rides were study hours as well as his evenings beside the lamp. His garden, too, gratified his outdoor taste. His only social indoor amusement was music. When he could be at church he lead its little choir. I often saw him slip out of the singers' gallery to answer a call and as quietly return to strengthen the doubting harmony. In his office the choir often met for practice and before we had a church organ, the rural orchestra of violin, cello, and bass, with sometimes a flute, filled the little room to overflowing with the strains of "Hebron," "Mear," or "Duke Street."
The church, & the music of which he gave so much attention, was itself largely the result of his own exertion. After the abolition of compulsory tithes in Massachusetts, the voluntarily supported churches of the little village had thriven at the expense of the old established one. But the Doctor, while worshipping with one of the former, could not quiet his yearning for a Congregational church. Rightly or wrongly he felt it to be a church of liberalism. "It stands," he said to some of my old friends, "for free schools." He felt this enough to be willing to bear the major part of the expense of a new church in which the scattered adherents to the old forms could be gathered. This he accomplished in 1844. It aroused considerable feeling on the part of those who could not understand that he was moved by attachment to his own faith and not by enmity to theirs, but the body of his fellow villagers never doubted his good faith.
In the surroundings in which he was placed the whale fishing could not fail to be the natural outlet for business enterprise. He joined with some of the more active men of the village in securing a strip of beach & building a wharf at which to fit and discharge the ships which they had bought. The last venture was in aiding the outfitting of the schooner "Rialto" to take to San Francisco a party of men eager to share in the new found wealth of California. She was owned mostly in shares, most of the share owners being members of the party. My father's share was represented, I believe, by my maternal uncle, Jirah Luce, who was desirous of going to El Dorado. The "Rialto" sailed February 7, 1849. Long before she had reached Cape Horn the Doctor was dead and the news that he had gone shocked the party on its arrival in the new land. Not very long after, a new schooner, built for the same long voyage, was named for him by the builders and for years bore his name up and down the western coast.
The end had come suddenly, in the strength of his manhood. In the same month of February, a ship, loaded with Irish immigrants and bound for Boston, had somehow gotten far enough south to make our harbor. All the way across, the famine fever had havoced her poor passengers, and her first hail was for a doctor. My father responded. He did what he could to comfort the wretched creatures & the ship proceeded. But she had done her work with him. I remember his tale of the horrible squalor of that "tween decks, crowded with young and old in all the terror of typhus unmitigated by the aid of physician or intelligent nursing, while through the hatchway, left open for air, the sleet beat in upon the sufferers.
Before long, the boatman who had taken him to the ship fell ill of the fever. Father attended him as long as he was able, supported in the chair by Allen who drove him, in fact I believe until the patient had begun to mend. Heavier and heavier grew his burden. "I believe," he would say to his wife, "that something (?ing) is due on that ship." I remember him lying wearily upon the sofa whenever he could be at home. More and more tremulous & irregular, because of the writing of the nightly notes of his days work and then it stopped. His old friend, Dr. Fisher, came to his help and came down the stairs with bowed head and choking voice. It was but a short journey now. On the 11th of March he reached the river of the deep water. He heard the voice & he knew his Lord.
What it meant to the little village can hardly be understood today, even in similar villages. For twenty years he had been the village guardian. He had witnessed the birth of the younger half of the dwellers of the town. Their elders he had comforted in their trials and had soothed the departing hours of those who had gone. In a peculiar manner he had been the next friend to many a family entrusted to his care by its head when the day of departure for distant seas had come. Into his hands wife & children were trustingly committed and the trust was never lightly held. And in return, the mariners, whether cruising with the pole star high overhead or where the Southern Cross lighted them, never forgot to gather some shells or other tokens which should please his taste or express their regard.
His funeral was a simple house service, as my mother dreaded the publicity of the church. But the villagers were not content to thus lay him away. Despite the fact that he had died of a vicious fever, they stopped the bier at the corner of the street leading to the burying ground and caused the casket to be opened that they might once more see the beloved face.
So ended this life, but its echos lasted and will last so long as those who felt its influence shall live. In my childhood my constant greeting was, "I hope you will be as good a man as your father" with a shake of the head or a doubting look at the expression of such an unreasonable hope. Years afterward, when I had myself become a physician, I was walking with two friends through a wood not too far from the village. As we met an old woman with a faggot, the elder young friends spoke with her and said, "Do you know who this young man is? He is Dr. Yale's son." Instantly the fagot was dropped and there descended upon my head a blessing, fervid beyond the custom of our guarded american speech.
It was a simple life in unobtrusive station, but it was a life of honest endeavor in the field that was open to it. Above all, it was a life marked with character, a character impressing all about it. It was the life of one who loved his fellow man and sought his God both in his Word and his Works.
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