Saturday, 8 October 2011

The Washburns of Maine - a noble family.

Israel Washburn (1784 – 1876) and Martha Washburn (1792 – 1861) ran a store, and then a farm in Livermore, Maine. They had a hard-scrabble life.

Israel had moved to Maine from Raynham, MA.  

He had been a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1815/16 and 1818/19.

The Washburns had eleven children (one of whom died soon after birth) – seven sons and four daughters.

Here are some notes on five of the sons:

Israel Washburn Jr 1813-1883 was a Representative to the U.S. Congress (Maine 6th District from 1851 -1853.  He was Governor of Maine from 1861 -1863.

Elihu B Washburne 1816 – 1887 (he added an “e” to the family name) was a United States Representative from Illinois between 1853 and 1869. 

He became the United States Secretary of State under President Ulysses Grant (President from 1869 – 1877). Washburne had the briefest term of any Secretary of State -  a meagre ten days, for then he accepted the post of Minister (Ambassador) to France.  He served there for the whole of Grant’s Presidency.

Elihu was without doubt one of the noblest Americans of the 19th Century. He was the only Ambassador to remain in Paris during the Prussian siege (Sep 18th 1870 – Jan 28th 1871), and in the days of the revolutionary Paris Commune (Mar 18th 1871 – May 28th 1871). In those dark and dreadful days Elihu never faltered in his representation of the greatest American values of justice and mercy.

Cadwallader Washburn 1818 – 1882 served three terms in the United States House of Representatives (Wisconsin 6th district) between 1867 and 1871.  

He was Governor of Wisconsin between 1872 and 1874.


Charles Washburn 1822 – 1889 was the U.S. Diplomatic Commissioner to Paraguay between 1861 and 1863, and Minister (Ambassador) to that Country from 1863 – 1868.

William Washburn 1831 – 1912 was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Minnesota between 1879 and 1895, and a United States Senator from Minnesota between 1889 and 1895.

Five sons – five noble Americans – five great citizens - each from one family.

Martha and Israel (Sr) Washburn must have been fabulous parents.

And every member of this family  were Republicans in those good old days before the Republican Party had been hi-jacked by the Reaganites,  and by the Christian right-wing.



Friday, 7 October 2011

The Greater Journey

I rarely purchase books these days because we have an excellent library system in Sarasota.   But I could resist buying David McCullough’s “The Greater Journey” (Simon and Schuster 2011), especially because the book was discounted by 33% at my local “Target” store.

McCullough has an easy style and I had previously read his biographies of John Adams and of Harry Truman, so I was glad to return to this Pulitzer Prize winning author.

“The Greater Journey” is about (to quote from the dust jacket) “ the adventurous American artists, writers, doctors, politicians, architects and others of high aspiration who set off for Paris in  the years between 1830 and 1900, ambitious to excel in their work”.

The book is a bit uneven, and sometimes reads like a listing of names from an Hotel register.

But McCullough is particularly good on folks such as 

Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female doctor in America; 


Mary Cassatt – the great American Impressionist painter;

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr  (pioneering American Doctor  [ He had a summer home in Pittsfield, MA which even today has an Oliver Street, a Wendell Ave and a Holmes Road!]);

Samuel F.B. Morse – a renowned painter long before he “invented” the Morse Code and helped to develop the telegraph system;

Charles Sumner who attended the Sorbonne and there saw black students “with the same ambition he had, and when he returned home, he would become the most powerful, unyielding voice for abolition in the U.S. Senate (i);  (Sumner Tunnel, Boston anyone?)

And there was “Gus and Gussie”.  “Gus” was Augustus Saint-Gaudens  ( from New York, son of an immigrant French shoemaker and an immigrant Irish mother),  “Gussie” was Augusta Homer (cousin to the painter Winslow Homer). Augustus married Augusta and were ever thereafter Gus and Gussie.  She was a notable painter, and he became the greatest of all American sculptors.  

(Boston friends, be sure to see his fantastic sculpture of Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachuetts Regiment, [the 54th was an all-volunteer Black Regiment which fought with great distinction during the American Civil War] it is  opposite the State House on Beacon Hill);

Elihu Washburne also figures prominently in the book.  I’ll write more about this outstanding American tomorrow).

“The Greater Journey” is a fine read.  Get it from your library (or buy it second-hand).

(i)  quotation from the dust jacket


54th Regiment Memorial, Boston, MA


Thursday, 6 October 2011

Eastville Methodist Church



Here is a picture of Eastville Methodist Church.  I happened upon it whilst I was looking at some Flickr photos of old Bristol U.K.

This is the place at which my parents “plighted their troth” on Boxing Day in 1935 (?).  The photographer failed to show up that day, so Dad and Mum never had any wedding photo’s.

This is the place where my older sisters, Maureen and Jean were baptised.

This is the place where my twin sister and I were baptised in 1944.

This is the place where I did a bit of lay preaching in the 1960’s. Dad and Mum, who had left Eastville Methodist Church soon after WW II were glad to be there to hear me preach. 

But not a thing had changed in all those intervening years.  For all intents and purposes it was the same Church that they had known in their youth and early adulthood. 

Same people (but fewer of them); 

same organist and choirmaster (stuck in the 1930’s); 

same lack of vision; 

same desire to do nothing more than survive.

So it was little wonder that Eastville Methodist Church ceased to be.  The building was torn down in the 1970’s or 80’s.

Eastville has also changed. It used to be an area filled with white “respectable”, and nominally Christian working class people.

Now it is the home of immigrants from many nations and of many faiths.  They too are “respectable”, but this is not always appreciated by the few remaining “old timers”.

More’s the pity.



Tuesday, 4 October 2011

What do you think?

I drove up to Tampa, FL on 25th September 2011 to have lunch with my pal Noah B (formerly a parishioner at St. James’s, Cambridge when I was their Rector).

My journey took me via the “Leroy Selmon Expressway” – Florida’s first all-electronic toll highway.

This expressway charges tolls by photographing a driver’s vehicle and tag (number plate in the U.K.).

I received my $3 bill yesterday, and paid it by check (cheque) by return of post.

On the one hand, this electronic toll system saved me a bit of time.

On the other hand, the system renders toll collectors un-necessary, and so they lose their jobs.

On my third hand, this system seems to be a bit “big-brother-ish”.

What do you think?


Monday, 3 October 2011

Musings on a a cooler day.

The meteorologists called it a “cold front”. It came through South West Florida on Friday.

Having lived most of my life (so far) in more northern climes I thought of it as a “cooler front”.

Early morning temperatures on Saturday and Sunday dropped to 59 F (15 C), and the “heat of the day” reached about 80 F (26 C), each day being sans humidity.

This is wonderful “walking weather”, and I think of it as S.W. Florida climate at its best.

Penne and I walked out mid-morning today. It was balmy and breezy – maybe about 75 F (23 C).

We heard birds singing in the shrubs, bushes and trees.

Butterflies with pale yellow wings danced in the air (often there were two of them, engaging in lovely aerial ballets).

Double-winged insects were swirling all around. They were impossible to identify "on the wings", but perhaps they were "Broad Winged Chasers" (see below)

We heard the cry of a hawk, and the chatter of an osprey.

The pond around which we walked gave off a slightly stale smell, (we’ve not had rain in a few days) - and I was instantly reminded of the smell of the lake in Eastville Park, Bristol – about a mile and a half away from where I grew up. (How wonderful it is that what we smell evokes memories!)

For a moment I was reminded of that old saying: “God is in his heaven, all’s right with the world”.

Fair enough, even though I frequently wonder where (or if) “God is” and I know that all is NOT right with the world.

But it was good to “suspend judgement” about the bigger issues for a few minutes, and to “take time to smell the roses”.



Sunday, 2 October 2011

Say that again

1. I listened last Thursday, to an NPR (National Public Radio) call-in programme. The caller had words of praise for the actress who was being interviewed. But he started his comments with “me, myself, I am in the military”.

Granted that he may have been a bit nervous, but why “me, myself, I”?

He should have said “I am in the military”
This caller was probably nervous about using the personal pronoun “I”. That’s a common trait in the current use of the English language.

2. A bit later an NPR announcer, in a commercial break, advertised a programme which was to be aired on Saturday 1st October.
She said: “listen to this at 8:00 to 10:00 a.m. in the morning”.
Excuse me – but I cannot imagine 8:00 – 10:00 a.m. in the evening.

3. A friend sent me a text message the other day. We’d enjoyed lunch together on September 25th 2011. His text message read “let’s meet again in the not too distant future”.

I liked his sentiment. I also thought that “soon” would have been simpler than “in the not too distant future”.

4. This afternoon on the NPR show called “Studio 360” the host, Kurt Anderson referred to his guest Anne Fadiman as “the English Professor”. I think that he meant to say “the Professor of English, Anne Fadiman”.

5. When I was at the check-out in my local Sweet-Bay supermarket earlier today, one of the clerks/cashiers made a passing reference to “hollowe'en”. I resisted every inclination to inform her that Oct 31st is not “hollowe’en’ but “hallowe’en”

Many Americans now refer to the day as “hollowe’en”. Perhaps they think that it is all about hollowing out pumpkins