American Transcendentalism: An Online Travel Guide

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Pages from Jean's Journal


March 12, 2006
Boston

The drive into Boston brought me much apprehension, because of the day’s coldness and slight logistical delays. It was my first time here: the raison d’etre of my taking this six day trip.We were “there” at the drop off spot, a fancy new office building, approximately two corners around from the Massachusetts State House. We rapidly walked with the group to Boston Commons and the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial, designed by Augustine St. Gaudens. We were met by a National Park Service ranger in uniform, his winter one, I might add.

I felt right in my element, having seen Glory, the film he queried us about to see a show of hands of how many had seen it. I raised mine high, as I had seen Glory, seven times probably. I have also been an interpretive park ranger, in uniform, so that only enhanced my comfort level of the next three hours. I revere Augustus Saint Gaudens, wishing just as I’d wished to go to Boston, that I could go to the National Historical Site which honors him, in New Hampshire sometime.

Though I enjoyed every moment of the lengthy talk at the Shaw Memorial and the Beacon Hill walking tour the most memorable part of the tour Ranger Smith led, was arriving at the Abiel Smith house, adjacent to Boston African American Meeting House and hearing my classmates readings and also, seeing the museum, with the held over William Lloyd Garrison exhibition.

There were photographs on all three floors of the house, too many to absorb in our time there. The effect was stunning, seeing all of the white and black, female and male eighteenth and nineteenth century abolitionists represented in one place, on the walls of the exhibit panels.

The striking design drew in the museum viewer. At the conclusion of our time there, Dana Smith, our guide, pointed out to me on the “African-Americans in Beacon Hill Map (Antebellum Boston 1850)” several of the particular individuals he had discussed as we made our way to the Meeting House: the Hayden place, the John Coburn building, and on Pinckney Street where he started us out, John Smith’s home, the Phillips School and Middleton. He also wrote down on my map “Holmes Alley,” by which we made our way to the Meeting House buildings, of Boston African American NHS.

The day for my friends and I wrapped up near Faneuil Hall, since some neighbors had strongly suggested to go there, and Quincy Market.  In the darkness, a moonlight night, though we passed by “15 State Street,” now made into a National Park Service visitor contact station.  The building formerly housed the National Park Service Regional Offices, now instead, located in Philadelphia.


 

March 13, 2006
Authors' Ridge, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord, Massachusetts

The day had turned even more gloomy as we disembarked the Schrock Tours bus and entered Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.  We made our way to the northeastern part of the cemetery, known as “Author’s Ridge.” The first graves we encountered were those of the Alcotts. It was all too much for me to absorb at once, as earlier this day we had been to the family home of the Alcott family, The Orchard House, and then, as we embarked to "the ridge," all of Concord writers and their family members were therein this cold place.

The Hawthorne graves and Emerson graves (including those of all family members) were somewhat easier to view, since the Alcotts bear so much personal knowledge for me, for I have read so much of, in particular, Louisa May Alcott’s work

I pointed out that the gravesites of Elizabeth Peabody, and those of Mr.and Mrs. Daniel Chester French and Mr. and Mrs. Franklin Sanborn are there. Classmate Tracey (Rissler), bless her, walked with me to those sites.

Though I normally possess a fantastic sense of direction, “finding everything by my nose,” I always say, I deferred to Tracey every single day, since she has an exceptional sense of direction.

I left the cemetery so edified that I had seen the Church and Sanborn resting places, just as I’m certain Dr. Tate felt the same satisfaction in seeing Elizabeth Peabody’s grave. Peabody is buried in a single plot, just next to a road, with other plots surrounding it on all sides.

This school year has brought so many memories, seeing the Thomas Gallaudet statue by Daniel Chester French in Washington, D.C., in November,  and following our trip, I learned that, Augustus Saint Gaudens and Daniel Chester French consulted one another on the statue French sculpted with Saint Gaudens’ help, of General Lewis Cass at the nation’s Capitol building.


 

March 14, 2006
Walden Pond

Our collective day at Walden Pond State Reservation was delightful, despite the cloudiness and the fog. Students read their assigned Henry David Thoreau readings. All of this portion took place at the cabin replica, the residence Thoreau resided at between July 1845 to September 1847. This is where Ralph Waldo Emerson owned property he allowed Thoreau to build and live on, with the requirement his dismantle his quarters when he was through.

“When I would recreate myself, I seek the thickest and most interminable and most          dismal swamp.  I enter the swamp as a sacred place - - a sanctum sanctorum. There is the strength, the marrow of Nature.”Henry David Thoreau (From ‘TheWetlands,’ Nature Exhibit, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, Harpers Ferry, West Virginia)

I very much liked the Walden State Park interpretation the park provided in the way of “Jeff,” our morning’s guide. He had done his legwork, for he pointed out that Monday, March 13, of 1857, the individual we hear so much of in Jefferson County, West Virginia, John Brown, had spoke in Concord, at the invitation of Franklin B. Sanborn, Concord resident, educator, writer and abolitionist.

Walking the trail back to the main portion of the reserve, Jeff pointed out the Amtrack train which he had heard coming. Just as the transcendentalists who’d been on this path before we were also able to observe the train passing through, on its’ way from Boston to Concord. After Thoreau completed his experiment, Emerson sold the cabin to his gardener, who in-turn sold it to farmers, who stored grain in the building in Concord, itself. In 1868, the cabin, then in Concord, was dismantled for scrap lumber.


  Jean Bray is an RBA student at Shepherd University (Spring 2006).

"American Transcendentalism: An Online Travel Guide" was produced by students in ENGL 446, American Transcendentalism, and ENGL 447, American Literature and the Prominence of Place: A Travel Practicum. These courses were team-taught in the Department of English at Shepherd University (formerly Shepherd College), Shepherdstown, West Virginia, in Spring 2002 by Dr. Patricia Dwyer and Dr. Linda Tate. The courses were taught again in Spring 2006 by Dr. Linda Tate. For more information on the course and the web project, visit "About This Site." © 2003 and 2006 Linda Tate.