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Diary of Hiram Harvey Hurlburt Jr: Chapter 15

You will understand at a little past eighteen years I was called on to take charge of a choir and look up the material. I obtained four ladies who could sing the soprano, two to sing alto and my friend B. H. Bacon came in with four others to take the bass, the tenor I reserved for myself. My friend’s father, “Benjamin Bacon”, being a fine player on the clarinet offered his services, Mr. Bacon played mostly the soprano, but if I wished and alto absent he would play that. The choir was a success. Our choir seats were conspicuous being at one side, and at right angles with the pulpit. The floor of the house was level only raised at the pulpit. As I went to take my seat which was the outer end to the congregation only one seat left for me, the soprano occupying the balance, the ladies had insisted that Miss Smith should be seated next to me “the leader”. This close sitting made myself and Miss Smith in a short time familiar as the business of the choir was concerned.

It to me was a position of care, anxious to have good music, sung with reverence, proper time, try to express the language of each line and verse, giving quick movement when called for – then medium to slow as required to express the grandeur of “Watts” Hymns, which were marked in the Congregational Hymnal.

When winter set in I was requested to have a singing school and Miss Smith intimated to me that I might stop for her which willing act naturally gave me a chance to return with her, and somehow I was requested to rehearse a tune, that might be improved, so a little time was spent at her home. I had a fine sounding melodeon that could be placed on a stand and furnish the wind with the left elbow, which came finally to be left there on which was practiced many pieces, evidently we enjoyed each others society when together; but occasionally some of these stylish people from Middlebury would be present; when I knew that my room was better than my company. I assure you I was not in the way.

I will now tell of one instance of embarrassment that occurred the first summer that I lead the choir. It was a fine summer day, I think we had sung the first hymn, when two girls walked in, there being no usher, they came up to the singers seat, as the soprano were not all present and I somehow had left a little vacancy, one of them seated herself in front that scarcely seated any one except a child, they were dressed in some gorgeous print, the one next to me was large, probably one hundred and fifty pounds. Their name as far as I ever knew were Mial Hier’s daughters, blue eyes, very red cheeks, said to be Dutch. The one next to me had a large bunch of caraway in her hand, and it was not long before she proffered me a sprig. I fixed my eyes on the communion table in front of the pulpit! She mad several attempts to induce me to accept which I ignored. Mind you the whole congregation could observe every movement. Mrs. Smith, Sorelle’s mother set where she could observe all. When she had a chance she spoke to me about it, saying, “my cheeks looked like the blood would bust through.” But said, “I acted like a gentleman.”

These girls had walked up the mountain more than two miles, probably had never attended chuch anywhere but a few times. But you put yourself in my place – for after singing the second time as I took my seat, on the girl sitting down I was nearly covered with the stiff new print!

To continue the account of the love or friendship with Miss Smith this state of things when on for quite a while. I considered that I had no just grounds for it and when I was at Weybridge one day found a select-school for advanced scholars v??? to be opened for three months made arrangement to attend, I was half past nineteen years, not quite heart broken, but I had endeavored to sift out my thoughts and find where I took, then when school commenced dropped all this romantic imagery as to try my best to improve in learning. The teacher Edwin Evarts had been several years in the South teaching advanced scholars. He advised me on textbooks, says he, “Take studies being used here and Mental Philosophy”. It was a success, I became stronger minded, little things worthless to worry over disappeared, and I was ready for what n??? happen.

A Miss Mary Foot came to this school with her sister younger, they drove their own team, a one horse rig, a young man Alfred Sturtevant perhaps two years more senior pushed himself forward, taking Mary’s horse to its hitching place, and exerting himself disagreeably in being first to get the team at close of afternoon session. Miss Foote was well known to my cousin Loeazer Robbins, and confided to her that she did not want Alfred to meddle with her horse, and wished Loeazer would intimate to me to get it. Well I guess! When anything of this kind came across my pathway, I was on hand, I just made it my business – and no one made any protest. The boys had found by experience that I was hard to handle. There were some of the older young men joked Alfred, that he was cut by that Green Mountain chap; Alfred was very sullen in his looks. I mistrusted him but how o??? when he would pitch on I could not tell.

But one day we were playing base ball – and the rule was, to knock the ball over the fence, the side that got it first was to take the game. One day it was knocked over the fence in quite a plat of Canada thistles well grown, I was nearest and I sprang for it. I got the ball when Alfred jumped on me to take it away, he was the heavier weight, and he bore me to the ground, but I turned him down, and held him down till he begged to be let up. The rail fence was lined with the scholars seeing the fracas. But I guess his black suit looked as if it was aged in a short time. Alfred made no more attempts – and the years have come and gone, and we have never met.

Note: This is an excerpt from the memoirs of Hiram Harvey Hurlburt Jr (1827-1910). He was my mother’s mother’s father’s father. The full diary is available here, with chapters transcribed from the scanned PDF of the manuscript into more easily read text as I have time.

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