Page images

hundred pages each. Its chief design was, to collect materials for history, by the publication of local histories, biographies, ancient documents, records, &c.; but it also contained much original and selected miscellany, of an amusing and instructive character. In it, was published a brief history of this County, and very valuable histories of a considerable number of towns, as well as many documents of public interest. The volumes are justly viewed as a valuable addition to the stock of historical information ; and the public are greatly indebted to the learned editors, for the ability displayed in them, and for the example of giving the history of town corporations, which has been since extensively followed, and promises to afford the most accurate materials for a general history of the Commonwealth. This work, thus valuable and ably conducted, was, nevertheless, less popular than many fugitive, worthless publications of the day, and failed to obtain patronage sufficient to justify its continuance, and was, therefore, to the regret of all who appreciated its merits, discontinued.

By this connexion with the press, Mr. Baldwin's relish for his favorite pursuits was stimulated; and, instead of being discouraged by a lack of like taste in the public, he continued to pursue bis inquiries, with a zeal that never tired, and a patience that was never exhausted.

He performed occasional journeys, sometimes even on foot, to visit aboriginal antiquities and natural curiosities; and assiduously collected all kinds of books, publications, and papers, which fell in his way, eagerly treasuring up whatever had the remotest tendency to illustrate the history of America.

He was early made a member of the American Antiquarian Society, and distinguished himself for his zeal in promoting its interests.

Isaiah Thomas, Esq., the founder of this institution, was an inhabitant of Worcester, and, perhaps, the most distinguished printer of his time on this continent. Though public-spirited and hospitable, bis remarkable enterprise secured to him a large fortune for a country gentleman. With a disinterested benevolence, seldom surpassed, in his lifetime he laid deep and firm the foundations of this Society, by erecting, at his own charge, a building for its use, costing over ten thousand dollars, and collecting, chiefly at his own expense, a library of about nine thousand volumes, all which, at his decease, he bequeathed to the Society, and also a fund sufficient to support a librarian in



future. This donation entitles this distinguished individual to a rank among the most liberal of benefactors to public charities.

Up to this time, the Society had no funds, no librarian, no catalogue of books, and scarcely any thing that resembled order or arrangement in its hall. This was necessarily incident to an inability to compensate services.

The donation of Mr. Thomas, upon his death, in 1831, enabled the Society to commit the library to the care of a librarian. It required high qualifications to fill this office to acceptance; as the incumbent must assume responsibilities, and discharge duties, which called, in an eminent degree, for extensive learning, an affable deportment, and the most toilsome labors.

With reference to these considerations, Mr. Baldwin was selected; and he, without hesitation, abandoned his profession, and accepted the trust, at the moderate salary of six hundred dollars a year. From that time, until bis death, he has been a most faithful officer, surpassing any expectations entertained of his capacity antecedent to his election.

Great and disheartening as the labors before him were, he overcame them. Where disorder reigned, the most perfect method now meets the eye; where, piled in a confused state, were thousands of pamphlets and newspapers, we now see many neatly bound and well-arranged volumes, constituting a most valuable collection of periodicals and occasional publications.

The catalogue of books, which is nearly ready for publication, is, of itself, a monument of industry. It required incredible labor, as it descends to a minuteness of detail, that makes it almost equal to a general index to the entire contents of the library. It consists of a folio of more than five hundred pages.

During the same period, he has kept the library open to the learned and the unlearned, and, by his felicitous deportment, s0 commended the interests of the Society to the friendly regards of visiters and their friends, that the library has been augmented to about twelve thousand volumes, chiefly by gratuities, many of which are works of rare occurrence and singular value. Indeed, visiters, who feel much respect for such institutions, have seldom taken their leave without rewarding his courtesy, by sending to the Society some book, or manuscript, that had been treasured up as a family relic.

[ocr errors]

To this end, he also carried on an extensive correspondence ; addressing such persons as he supposed might be in possession of documents and papers, valuable in their character, as illustrative of our history; entreating them to place them in this general and safe depository, for the benefit of the public. In this manner, he opened unknown mines, rich in antiquarian treasure, which have contributed largely to the general stock of the Society

On him, also, fell much of the burden of both foreign and domestic correspondence. This was a matter wholly independent of what has just been spoken of. It was with learned societies and learned men; and, while it has called for no inconsiderable labor, it is believed to have been executed in a manner highly creditable to the character of the Society.

Thus the Society has attained a palmy state of prosperity, chiefly under the influence of a mind most admirably adapted to enlarge its respectability and usefulness. But, under these complicated cares and labors, the health of this estimable individual gave way, and, for several months past, he has been an invalid. The Society, grateful for his eminent services, and having it in their power, under the bequest of Mr. Thomas, to despatch a person to the West, to visit and explore the antiquities of that region, commissioned Mr. Baldwin for that purpose, with hopes that his health would be improved by the journey. In this expedition he has perished, and we are left to mourn his untimely fate.

Mr. Baldwin has been spoken of only as a scholar and professional gentleman; but he had other properties that endeared him to his friends. Few persons have been more caressed for enticing social qualities. His disposition was amiable, his manners easy and conciliatory, his address affable, his temperament, almost without exception, cheerful, and often humorous. At the table, the fireside, in all the little coteries of friends, where his company was always much sought, he enlivened and animated all around him. His satire, though often pungent, seldom excited resentment. His wit was generally the offspring of good feeling, and served to amuse, rather than irritate. His repartee, though often pointed, seldom left a sting behind.

sting behind. In a word, he was a person of happy temper, having an uncommon share of good nature and unoffending wit, which insured him a kind and favorable reception wherever he moved.

The writer of this humble article pretends not to canvass the

merits of the subject of it. He speaks of a most worthy and excellent personal friend, and would be unwilling to employ the language of panegyric; but he would fail utterly to do the simplest justice to his memory, if he were not to declare, that his untimely death is a most afflictive bereavement to his numerous friends; an irreparable loss to the Society, of which he was a most valuable member and officer; and a calamity to the public. Others, who have leisure, it is sincerely hoped, will do justice to his memory by a more complete biography.

[ocr errors]






f The decease of unembers, when ascertained, is indicated by a star prefixed to their names.

When no name of a State is annexed to the place of residence, with the exception of a few well-known cities, Massachusetts is understood. Benjamin Abbot, LL. D.

Exeter, N. H. Prof. Ebenezer Adams, Dartmouth Coll. Hanover, N. H. *Hon. John Adams, President U. S. Quincy. *Nathaniel Adams, Esq.

Portsmouth, N. H. Gen. Roger Alden,

Meadville, Pa. Rev. Timothy Alden, D. D., President

Alleghany College, *Benjamin Allen, LL. D.

Hyde Park, N. Y. Hon. Charles Allen,

Rev. Joseph Allen,

Rev. William Allen, D. D., President
Bowdoin College,

Brunswick, Me.
Ebenezer T. Andrews, Esq.

Boston. *Rev. Jesse Appleton, D. D., President Bowdoin College,

Brunswick, Me. Hon. Charles H. Atherton,

Amherst, N. H. Caleb Atwater, Esq.

Columbus, Ohio. *Christopher C. Baldwin, Esq., Librarian, Worcester. Loammi Baldwin, Esq.

Charlestown. Rev. Aaron Bancroft, D. D.

Worcester. *John Chandler Bancroft,

« PreviousContinue »