There is a new object of interest in our cemetery. Those who regarded John N. Mead with affection or esteem, (and who that knew him did not so regard him) will find there a touching tribute to his memory which has been sent to his grave by his college classmates. The monument is an obelisk of beautiful Italian Marble, simple and chaste in design, and selected with a taste such as the deceased himself would have used, if he had been the survivor, and one of those who mourn him had been lost. The inscription reads--
a member of the Senior Class
in Harvard College.
Born at Chesterfield, N. H.,
April 2d, 1831.
Died at Brattleboro,
August 15, 1850.
by his Classmates."
"The autumn winds rushing
Waft the leaves that are searest,
But our flower was in flushing
When blighting was nearest."
When one stands by this grave thus decorated by faithful friendship, the thoughts wander both backward and forward. There is called up, as if it all were but yesterday, the image of the ruddy little school boy, so full of health and frolic, the foremost in doing everything,--one of the planters of trees around the high school, which he intended should outlive him;--the editor of the manuscript newspaper--the pride of Mr Wolson, Mr Chamberlain, and all the teachers: then there comes the more developed youth,--the industrious scholar--kind and charitable to others, but sustained by a healthy selfrespect; for there is genius in him, and he feels it. In short there passes before us his brief but joyous and faultless life, and it's sad and sudden close.
Then there come the founders of this stone, whom a few more months (so far as this life is concerned) will separate and scatter. They too in future years, will singly or in separate groups, stand sometimes here! After their ranks shall have been thinned by other losses, the middle aged man will come from the cares and storms of life, to visit this first grave: What a sudden tenderness will overcome him! What a strange astonishment, that John should have rested here so quiet all these years! How boisterous life has been to me! How peaceful death has been to him!
The wretched will be sure to come, for to them this spot will be full of hope and promise.
At length there will be visits at longer intervals by those of their number, who shall live to be old: and perhaps at last there may come, trembling with age, the survivor of them all. He too will have his reflections. How he will contrast his own destiny with that of the placid sleeper who lies beneath him:--what a view of human life will pass through his mind: He will stand like Robinson Crusoe on the summit of what turns out to be a desolate island, and will see the whole at a glance. And this marble that he helped to raise as a beacon to the memory, has become a signal and a landmark to guide his own departure. But he also, thank God, will still turn to the future. He will surely look forward to the next class-meeting, after he as well as the others shall have taken his last degree.
Semi-Weekly Eagle, Thursday, October 24, 1850.
William Czar Bradley II was John Noyes Mead's friend from Brattleboro days, then his roommate at Harvard University. Czar Bradley was also the Harvard class poet, and it is almost certain that he composed these graceful Latin cadences for his friend.
Larkin G. Mead, Jr.
John Noyes Mead drew these four sketches. The gentle and observant humor made them very popular in Brattleboro---copies adorned many parlor walls for many years.
By John Noyes Mead
Comparatively few persons have passed a more successful, cheerful, hopeful life of full rounded measure, beyond, by some years, the allotted age of man. In his domestic relations was, apparently, much of happiness and cause for congratulation. The wisdom he showed in the selection of his life partner was fully manifested in the conduct and characteristics of the nine children composing this gifted family. The eldest, John N. Mead, died while in his fourth year at Harvard College, in 1850, at the age of 19 years. He seemed naturally to possess capabilities such as others can rarely acquire by years of effort. He was with George C. Hall and William C. Bradley and others, of that brilliant circle of scholars, in the early days of the present school system, which gave much pride and satisfaction to the teachers and a high character to the schools. In the sciences, languages, music, drawing, painting, mathematics and mechanics, he surprised every one by his proficiency. With such an easy comprehensive grasp his mind seemingly swept the whole field of human effort, we had cause to wonder what an intellectual giant he would become in coming years. All problems and difficulties were fearlessly met and conquered with no show of egotism or vanity. Even "the great teacher," death, never found a mortal subject who met him more calmly and philosophically. When told that his disease was past remedy, that his young life, with so much to make that life desirable to himself and others, must in a few hours be closed forever, he replied:
"I have had a good time and good friends, for which I feel thankful. Life thus far has been so pleasant, I would stay longer, but it is all for the best as it is, for the years of responsibility, I may not be equal to or fitted to endure, are so near."
Socrates could have made no better reply, and Bryant, in his high poetical conception of the desirable in life's closing scene, has not transcended the actual.
His classmates at Harvard gave evidence of their high estimation and affection by erecting a monument to his memory, on which is inscribed---
Waft the leaves that are sere'st;
But our flower was in flushing
When blighting was nearest."
Henry Burnham, "Brattleboro, Windham County, Vermont. Early History, with Biographical Sketches of Some of Its Citizens". (Brattleboro: D. Leonard, 1880).