Painter Family Address
Delivered by Dr. L. H. Painter, at the Painter Reunion, held at
Cummin's Park, Sept. 13, 1903.
To say that I appreciate the honor that you have conferred upon me by inviting
me to present myself before you as the principal speaker of the day, but feebly
expresses my feelings on this occasion. The assignment of this duty to me has
been received with no indifferent appreciation of the difficulty, and, to me,
magnitude of the task, for whatever successes and rewards of merit I may be
privileged to reap in this world, it is a well-established fact, in my own mind
at least, that it will not be as an orator or as a public speaker.
"Not many generations ago, where you now sit, surrounded by all that adorns and
embellishes civilized life, the rank thistle nodded in the wind, and the wild
fox dug his hole unscared." I will venture to say that there is not one within
the sound of my voice, who ever read the works of the immortal Irving, who does
not remember these lines. But did you ever stop to think -what they meant? Did
you ever think of the toil and tears that it took to surround you "with all that
adorns and embellishes civilized life"?
Thomas Gray, in his incomparable "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard,"
intimates that even in the most obscure stations, only the field is wanting to
cause a display of talents equal to any that the world has ever seen. When I
review the history of the old settlers, the hardy pioneers, who redeemed this
country from waste and savagery, I am minded to give unqualified assent to this
The position that such brave men must perforce occupy in the annals of history
is the noblest that can be imagined. "They builded better than they knew." Their
gallant struggles gave to civilization a vast extent of territory, and through
their heroism and terrible privations was prepared the way for the church, the
school, the temple of justice, and the other institutions that enlightenment
brings in her train for the upbuilding and betterment of all conditions of
Rude and unlettered as were these men of an era without parallel in the world's
history for desperate daring and godlike endurance, they should be given as high
a niche in the temple of fame as our more cultivated but not more deserving
patriots. And ere the destroying hand which sweeps over the all-embracing dial
of time, has erased alike all record of the courage of the hero and the
trembling of the coward, it is fitting and right, and it should be our duty to
see, that the deeds and aims of our fathers be preserved in the historic annals,
as they have heretofore been preserved in the traditions, of our family.
Glancing back over early history, we see that the destiny of the savage had been
accomplished, and that he lingered, a blot on the fair face of our country. He
must now make way for a superior race, and barbarism must go down before the
grand forces of civilization. And as a result of that metamorphosis, these
fertile valleys, which at best could supply game for a few wandering tribes, now
teem with husbandmen, and the miserable wigwam of the aborigine has given place
to happy homes where peace is the theme,. love the motive and where prosperity
and plenty hover over all. Where the miserable savage, in his indolence, paid no
heed to the passing hours, there have sprung up industries that benefit the
world. Where his superstition made him the prey of gloomy prejudices and forced
him to perform the most horrid sacrifices, there has arisen the pure and noble
fabric of the civilized creeds, the gentle worship of the Christian religion.
Eighty or ninety years ago, a few people, our fathers, tiring of their manner
and place of living, made an exodus from the green hills of Virginia to the then
untraveled wilderness of the great West. They lived here in the midst of
privation, penury, want and danger, that you and I .might enjoy the benefits of
the grandest civilization that the world has ever known. They toiled on day
after day and year after year, with no hope of recompense and no wish for
reward, save the consciousness of duty well done. In the face of almost
insurmountable obstacles, they labored and sowed the seed of this civilization,
the benefits of which we are enjoying to-day, when the desolation of the
wilderness has been changed to a garden of beauty.
All praise, then, and thanks, to these heroes, our fathers, who made existence
for us in this age possible. Let us be worthy of them. Nor sink below the level,
nor fall short of the pattern set by them. Let us strive to be men, worthy
progeny of the unselfish men and women who lived in want that we might enjoy
They have, alas ! nearly all passed to their reward; and with their passing go
the conditions that called them into existence and the harassing environments by
which they were surrounded. A new era has dawned, a new order of things is at
hand. The old times have given place to this, the strenuous age, when every man
must be a specialist in order to make his life count in the world.
In the good old times of a century or so ago, it used to be that every man knew
something about farming, carpentering, blacksmithing and milling, and every
household could provide its own clothing and preserve the necessary foods
against the bitterness of winter; and every man was in a way his own physician,
his own lawyer and his own theologian. But, by the unparalleled advancement in
the invention and use of machinery, and the no less significant discoveries of
scientific minds, all this has been changed. A man must now have a trained mind
and a skilled hand, or he is counted out of the race even before it is begun.
What this world's share is in the great design, we know not, even though our
unconscious hands from day to day are helping to accomplish it. Like the tiny
coral insect, working deep underthe dark waters, we each struggle and strive for
our own little ends, nor dream of the vast fabric we are building up for God. We
each struggle and strive for personal aggrandizement. We none of us have that
godlike unselfishness that thinks only of others' good. But in working for
ourselves we are working for all. We are so bound together that no man can work
for himself alone. Each blow he strikes for himself helps to mold the universe.
The stream, in struggling onward, turns the mill-wheel; the coral insect joins
continents to one another, and ambitious man, building a pedestal for himself,
leaves a monument to posterity.
Contented, unambitious people are all very well in their way, but they are not
the stuff that heroes are made of. Don't imagine that it is a very wise and
philosophical, or even a very artful, thing to be contented. It may be true, as
a modern writer says, that "a contented mind is happy anywhere." But he also
says, "So is a Jerusalem pony," and, as a consequence, both are treated alike.
The discontented man gets the place, and the contented man is passed by and left
just wherever he is willing to be left. He plods away day after day and year
after year, doing the things that others have done before him, and perfectly
satisfied to let everything alone as it is.
"Man was made to grow, not stop," :s an incontrovertible law of the universe.
The contented mind has ceased to grow. Such people drop into ruts, and there
development ceases. They have no sympathy with new inventions or new ideas. They
cling to the old things, old methods, and the ways to which they and their
fathers and mothers have been accustomed. They put a limit to their capacity for
growth through a mistaken sense of reverence for the manners and methods of
their ancestors. They are dead to enterprise, to advancement along any line. New
movements, new systems of business, larger conceptions of life, and similar
things in the living, moving present, do not appeal to them. Immovably bound to
the past, they step only so far this way and so far that way to keep within the
limits of established precedent. The effect of this class of people on a
community, a state or a nation is well illustrated by the following lines from
the pen of Sam W. Foss
"One day through the primeval wood
A calf walked home as good calves should, But left a trail all bent askewA
crooked trail, as all calves do. Since then, two hundred years have fled, And, I
infer, the calf is dead. But still he left behind that trail, And thereby hangs
my moral tale. The trail was taken up next day By a lone dog that passed that
way. And then a wise bellwether sheep Pursued the trail o'er vale and steep, And
drew his flock behind him too,
As a good bellwether ought to do.
And from that day, o'er hill and glade, Through those old woods a path was made,
And many men wound in and out, And dodged and turned and bent about, And uttered
words of righteous wrath Because 'twas such a crooked path. But still they
followed-do not laughThe first migrations of that calf;
And through this winding woodway stalked, Because he wabbled when he walked. The
forest path became a lane, That bent and turned and turned again. This crooked
lane became a road, Where many a poor horse, with his load, Toiled on beneath
the burning sun, And traveled some three miles in one. And thus, a century and a
half, They trod in the footsteps of that calf. The years passed on in swiftness
fleet; The road became a village street. And this, before men were aware, A
city's crowded thoroughfare. And soon the central street was this, Of a renowned
metropolis. And men two centuries and a half Trod in the footsteps of that calf:
Each day a hundred thousand rout, Followed the zigzag calf about, And o'er his
crooked journey went. The traffic of a continent. A hundred thousand men were
led By one calf, near three centuries dead. They followed still his crooked way,
And lost one hundred years a day, For such a reverence is lent To
well-established precedent. A moral lesson this might teach, 'Were I ordained
and called to preach, For men are prone to go it blind Along the calf-paths of
the mind, And work away from sun to sun, To do what other men have done. They
follow in the beaten track, And out and in and forth and back. And still their
devious course pursue To keep the paths that others do. But how the wise old
wood gods laugh Who saw the first primeval calf.
Ah! many things this tale might teach, But I am not ordained to preach.
There are thousands of people to-day who remain on the fence, halting between
two opinions, doubting as to what they had better do in this life, hesitating
whether they should do this or do that until an opportunity that might have
settled the problem has gone by. The man who can seize promptly and firmly an
opportunity as it passes, and never let it go until he has wrung from it every
possibility, is the achiever. He is the man who does things.
In man's field of labor, change has accomplished and is still more accomplishing
itself. In every direction, opportunities for honored and remunerative
specialized toil are opening up that our ancestors never dreamed of. The day of
the primary import to humanity of mere muscular strength is gone by forever. And
the day of the all-importance of the strength, culture and activity of man's
brain and nerve force has come, and come to stay. The brain of one chemist, who
in his laboratory accomplishes the compounding of some new explosive, has more
effect on the wars of modern nations than the structure of ten thousand
soldierly arms and legs. And the man who invents one new labor-saving mechanical
device may have performed the labor that it would otherwise have taken hundreds
and thousands of his lustily legged and armed fellows to perform.
On lands where once fifty men and boys toiled with their cattle, to-day one
steam gang-plow, guided by but two pairs of hands, passes swiftly. And the
combined harvester of the great Western prairies in one day reaps, binds, and
prepares for the granary, the product of fields that it would have taken a
hundred pairs of strong arms to harvest in the past. The iron tools and weapons
only one of which it would have taken an ancient father of our race long months
of stern exertion to extract from the ore and bring to shape and temper, are now
poured forth by steam-driven machinery as the mill-pond pours forth its waters.
And even in war, man's ancient and honorable field of toil, a complete
revolution has taken place. Time was when the size and strength of man's muscles
largely determined his fighting powers, and a giant with his spear or battle-axe
made a host fly before him. To-day the puniest manikin, behind a modern Gatling
gun, may hew down in perfect safety a phalanx of heroes whose arms and legs and
physical prowess a Greek god might envy.
Therefore we find that wherever that condition which we call modern civilization
prevails, and in proportion as it tends to prevail; wherever steam power,
electricity and the forces of wind and water are compelled by man's intellectual
activity to become the motor powers in the accomplishment of human toil-there
has arisen, the world over, a large body of men who find that their ancient
fields of labor have slipped, or are slipping, from them. In our streets, in our
fields, at our gates everywhere, are to b found, in proportion as modern
civilization is really dominant, me whose bulk and animal strength would have
made them, as ma chines of toil, invaluable to any simpler civilization, but who
owing to lack of intellectual or delicate manual training, have nos. nothing to
offer society that it stands really in need of, and who therefore help to form
our great army of the unemployed, a body that finds that the only powers which
it possesses are so little needed by its fellows that, in return for its
intensest physical effort, life is barely sustained. The material conditions of
life have been rapidly modified and the man has not been modified with them.
Yet it is only on one and a comparatively small section of men that these
changes have told in such fashion. If the modern field of labor has contracted
on the physical side, it has immeasurably expanded on the other, the
intellectual side. If machinery and the command of inanimate forces have
rendered of comparatively little value mere muscular energy, the demand on
intellect has immeasurably increased. The steamship, the hydraulic lift, the
electric car, the Gatling gun, and the torpedo boat, once made, may perform
their labors with the guidance and assistance of comparatively few hands, but a
whole army of men of science, clerks, engineers and highly trained workmen are
necessary to their invention, construction and maintenance.
In the domain of art, science and literature, and, above all, in the political
field, an almost infinite extension has taken place. Where, in primitive times,
but an individual here and there was called on to design a king's palace or to
decorate a god's temple, to-day a mighty army of men is employed in producing
plastic art alone, both high and low, from the traceries on wall paper and the
illustrations in the penny journals to the pictures and statues adorning our
Where once an ancient witch doctress was the only person in the whole land who
studied herbs and earth, or a solitary wizard the only individual in a whole
territory interrogating nature, and where later a few score alchemists and
astrologers only, were engaged in examining the nature of substances and the
movements of the planets, to-day a hundred thousand men in every civilized
country are laboring to unravel the mysteries of nature, and from the practical
chemist and physician and anatomist to the astronomer and mathematician,
scientific men form a mighty and always increasing army of workers.
Where once an ancient bard supplied a nation with its literature, or where later
a few score priests and men of letters wrote and translated for the few to read,
to-day literature gives employment to a countless multitude of men. From the
penny-a-liner to the poet and philosopher the demand for their services
Where one town-crier, with stout legs and lusty lungs, was once all-sufficient
to spread the town news, a score of men now sit daily, pen in hand, preparing
the columns of the morning paper, and far into the night a hundred compositors
are engaged in a labor that requires a greater culture of brain and finger than
most ancient kings possessed.
Above all, in the political domain, where once a ruler aided by a handful of
councillors was alone practically concerned in the labors of statecraft and
legislation, to-day, owing to the rapid means of intercommunication and the
consequent diffusion of political and social information throughout a territory,
it has become possible for the first time for every man to keep himself closely
informed on all national affairs, and in every state the ordinary man has been
almost compelled to take some share, however small, in the duties and labors of
legislation and government.
Thus in every direction the change which modern material civilization has
wrought has immeasurably extended the field of labor as a whole. Never before in
the whole history of the earth has the field of remunerative toil been so wide,
so interesting or so complex, or its results so all-important to society. Never
before has mankind been so fully and so strenuously employed.
Higher education, then, is an absolute necessity. The times demand it and the
force of circumstances compels it. If we as a family are to survive, if we are
to live and prosper, if we are to be abreast of the times, we must not only make
intellectual advancement ourselves, but see that our children have an equal
chance with others in the great race.
\ e are all, perhaps, assured of at least moderate success who belong to this
present generation, but how about the sons and daughters who are just starting?
I think you will all agree with me, especially you elderly kinsfolk, that it
would take them a long time to get to the top of the ladder of success in this
day, with the educational advantages that most of you enjoyed.
The name of Painter is a synonym for respectability, and honesty, honor and
upright dealing are among its prominent qualifications. True, none of the family
have attained to the Presidential chair, and few, very few of us, can be
reckoned as multi-millionaires, but, on the other hand, neither have we to
record any failures or the existence of any member who has become a charge upon
the community. Satisfied with moderate means, prudence has marked our course and
a very fair share of success has been the reward of the individual members of
this family. If the next generation of our people is to enjoy even this same
measure of success, their education must keep pace with the times.
And now, some of us look, with longing eyes, backward to the peaceful.
irresponsible life of childhood, or to the condition of rural tranquility and
simplicity that was the life of our progenitors in the good old days. That
easy-going, absolutely happy life seems to us, as we look away from the
agitation of our present existence, to be the ideal condition. At times the
Garden of Eden is more attractive to us than the Cross of Calvary, and yet it is
Calvary and not Eden that stands for the redemption of the race, that has made
life divine, and to which we look for the deepest satisfactions of the soul.
When we shall have learned, like the Master, to find a peace that stills all the
waves of our discordant minor experiences, we shall find it infinitely more
satisfying than the tranquil existence of childhood or the memories of the good
There is a fundamental principle, a universal element underlying every calling
in life, an eternal peace subsisting at the heart of ceaseless agitation, which
unites all men as brothers. Recognition of this principle is what we must have
in order to break up the hardness, harshness, selfishness and bigotry that are
so characteristic of every trade and profession. When I learn that my calling is
just another way of serving humanity, when we all come to realize and to know
that the farmer, the merchant and the day laborer are just as honestly and as
determinedly striving for the redemption of the race, and are equally necessary
to the enrichment of life, our place in this life will then have a new
significance, and to give our lives for the world, must seem the only thing
worth living for.
This gathering here to-day of this great family is a step in this direction, in
the direction of restoring the universal relations of mankind, when not as
doctors, merchants, farmers or as individuals of any class, but , as men, as
brothers, we shall labor together. Thus shall our lives become effective, thus
shall we come to recognize our value to society, thus shall we enter into the
kingdom of God, and ourselves become God's sons.