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CHAPTER II The Tenacious Wish g g g g g g g g g 1865 The crowd grew silent, stilled by an emotion too big for cheers. For weeks the citizens of Worcester had planned this Fourth of July welcome for the men who had returned from the battlefields of the Civil War. The streets were arched with scores of stilted phrases which tried to do justice to the occasion. “To be Free is to be Strong,” said one; “The Heart of the Commonwealth Greets the Defenders of the Union,” another; and “Reap the Fields your Valor Won,” still another. The parade itself was longer than any other ever held in Worcester, with men from every Worcester County regiment and six thousand children in the line. For two and a half miles the march continued before it halted at the grand and new Mechanics Hall, where speeches and refreshments had been planned to conclude the celebration. Then there it was, flying several hundred feet up in the air above the crowd, against the backdrop of a blue sky and with its colors blazing in the glare of a noonday sun—an American flag, fastened to a string held by a little boy with a kite. All the stars were there—all thirty-six of them. This was a year, 1865, that would go down in history. It had been in this year, on the ninth of April, that the bells of the City had rung to mark the surrender of General Lee. Less than a week later they had rung again when news had come of the assassination of President Lincoln. And many the words then spoken would be remembered a hundred years later, when another president was slain also on a Friday and succeeded by a man named Johnson. No more than a week after President Lincoln’s funeral, a bill was introduced in the Massachusetts Legislature petitioning for the incorporation of a school to be known as the Worcester County Free Institute of Industrial Science. It is incredible that through this kaleidoscope of April events the misty picture of a non-existing school should have persisted so clearly. At this point John Boynton’s ideas for a school were no more than a vague wish for “the promotion of the welfare and happiness” of his fellow men, but it was a tenacious wish. In its favor was the fact that civilization loves to give attention and apportion credit to initial endeavor, even though progress has always depended on continuation of effort. In this case the immediate link between wish and fulfillment was David Whitcomb. It was he who picked up the fragile seed, almost lost forever in the indifference of a country village, to transplant it in fertile soil where there would be a chance for growth. It was January of 1865 before David Whitcomb talked to anyone at all about the school, and then it was to his pastor, Seth He has passed away. But we remain. The country remains. The Government remains. There are lessons to be learned; there are duties to be done, and a future to be provided for. —Seth Sweetser, in a sermon after President Lincoln’s death, April, 1865 9

The Tenacious Wish

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