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EXTRACTS FROM THE
MEMOIR OF CHARLES DEANE, LL. D.
BY JUSTIN WINSOR.
IN February, 1865, just after he had retired from business and when he was fifty-two years old, Mr. Deane wrote a brief sketch of the earlier part of his life, and brought the narrative down to a time when he had already formed those acquaintances which caused a good part of the enjoyments attending his less active but riper years.
"I was born in Biddeford, in the State of Maine, on the Saco River, Nov. 10, 1813. My father, Dr. Ezra Deane, was descended from Walter Deane, who with his brother John came from Chard, near Taunton in England, and settled in Taunton, Massachusetts, then in Plymouth Colony. My father was born in Connecticut, and after getting his profession of a physician, he removed to Maine, and lived in different places before he settled in Biddeford. When old enough I went to the public school at Biddeford. For a few quarters I went to the Saco Academy. I also attended a classical school kept by Phineas Pratt, formerly preceptor of the academy. When not yet sixteen years of age I went to Kennebunkport to live with my mother's brother, Silas Moody, who kept there a shop, with such variety of merchandise as is usual in 'Country Stores.' It was my duty to open the store in the morning, sweep it out, make the fire when needed, and attend on customers, as I was able. The
preaching on Sunday was during my stay there a part of the time at the old meeting-house where my grandfather once preached, and a part of the time at the meeting-house in the village. They were two miles apart. The preaching was orthodox, and my uncle and aunts were of that persuasion. I remained in Kennebunkport about a year and a half, and then I went into the store of Mr. Joseph M. Hayes, of Saco (on Cutts or Factory Island). I was expected to sleep in the store with the older clerk, and to take my meals at Mr. Hayes's house very near the store. I had duties to perform similar to those in my uncle's store, but I had harder work. Saco was a flourishing place, and the York Company's establishment there gave us a good deal of business. I had the privilege of spending Sundays at my father's house and of going to church with the family. I served Mr. Hayes two years, and with letters of introduction from my employer, I visited Boston and New York, in the spring of 1833, with a view to finding a situation. I had a letter to Messrs. Waterston, Pray, & Co. of Boston, into whose employ I finally agreed to go; and entered their store, August 23, 1833, as a salesman. I was then over nineteen years of age. My situation was a pleasant one, and I believe I commended myself to my employers. My agreement for salary was two hundred dollars a year until I should be twenty-one. On arriving at that age I agreed again with them for three years. In 1840 I was advertised a partner in the house of Waterston, Pray & Co., and the next year was married to Mr. Waterston's eldest daughter.
"Soon after this I began to add to my slender stock of books. I date my love and taste for books and reading, in American history especially, from a summer spent in 1843 at Hingham. I found I did not know the distinction between the Old Colony and the Massachusetts Colony, and I desired to inform myself; and soon after I began reading about our early history. I found at Burnham's book-shop a copy of Morton's 'New England's Memorial,' edition of 1721. I bought it and read it. I also bought Young's Chronicles of the Pilgrims,' which was published a few years before (1841). I also read Allen's American Biography,' the first edition, 1806. I soon after became acquainted with Dr. Alexander Young and Edward A. Crowninshield, who were much interested in these early books, and their acquaintance gave me new zest for the buying of books. I also became acquainted with Mr. Henry Stevens of Vermont, who soon afterwards went to London, where he has acted as agent for American book-buyers. He has sent me a great many volumes, though few compared with what he has sent to other purchasers, like Mr. Brown of Providence, and Mr. Lenox of New York. My acquaintance also with my friend George Livermore has formed a pleasant circumstance in my life.
"Before becoming so much interested in New England history, I had been a good deal occupied with the study of mental philosophy, or that part of it which relates to the freedom of the will, and I had bought and read a good many books on the subject. I had felt deeply that the necessitarians had the best of the arguments. I used as I had the opportunity to converse with my father on these themes. He was a believer in philosophical necessity.
"I wrote occasionally for the newspapers, and intended to preserve such communications for future reference, and indeed have for the most part done so.
"For the past ten years (now February, 1865) I have had considerable to do in connection with the volumes of the Historical Society."
Here the brief sketch ends.
Mr. Deane's business career was a successful one; and when he left his mercantile connections, he did so with the satisfaction of having passed through his commercial experience with credit and an untarnished name.
Mr. Deane's studies early made him familiar with the aspects of those beginnings of our American history which are associated with the banks of the James, in Virginia, and imparted also so much of interest to the diversified shores of New England; and his love of this history never ceased. It is not easy to say whether, in the estimation of scholars, he identified himself more with the problems of the opening years of the Plymouth than of the Virginia Colony. He naturally turned in the first instance to the oldest of the New England settlements; and the scrap-book which contains his early newspaper communications shows a great preponderance of interest in the Pilgrim story.
The reputation which Mr. Deane has left behind him is that of an historical scholar almost peerless among his American contemporaries, if we separate this condition from that of a writer. He has not associated his name with any great, long-sustained piece of historical writing, but he has raised as a monument of his labors the image of an untiring investigator, a conscientious painstaker in research, and an exemplar for judicial fairness.
Harvard College conferred upon Mr. Deane the degree of Master of Arts in 1856; and when the University celebrated its two hundred and fiftieth anniversary in 1886, and
representative men from all parts of the country were called to her festival to receive honor at her hands, Mr. Deane stood up before the assembly, and received from President Eliot the designation of "antiquary and historian, a master among students of American history," while he was made a Doctor of Laws. Bowdoin had conferred the same degree upon him
He died on the 13th of November, 1889, having just completed his seventy-sixth year.
He was elected member of the Massachusetts Historical Society in 1849, also of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1845; Rhode Island Historical Society, 1847; New York Historical Society, 1852; Newport Historical Society, 1854; Wisconsin Historical Society, 1856; Historical Society of Delaware; Long Island Historical Society, 1868; Maine Historical Society, 1870; Virginia Historical Society, 1881; Essex Institute, 1887; American Historical Association, 1884; American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1866; London Society of Antiquaries, 1878; American Antiquarian Society, 1851; Northwestern Literary and Historical Society, Webster Historical Society, Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Philadelphia, Harvard Historical Association, etc.