With slender, bent form and shuffling, dragging step -- the motion of his body like that of a ship in a high sea, and apparently as insensible to surroundings, -- this queer specimen of humanity was for many years almost daily seen in our streets, to as late a period as 1869. He was peaceable and inoffensive under great provocations; but when he heard from a crowd of school boys, "Ed Gould stole a knot hole, a post hole, and he stole squashes in the blow," his anger was aroused to a fearful pitch. He was often shamefully treated and made the subject of ridicule. The boys, delighted to find a vulnerable point in the armor of his good nature, teased and tormented poor Ed. until he often became completely exhausted in vain efforts to punish them for libel and clear up his character. It was not, we have charity to believe, intentional cruelty on the part of the boys, but it was their natural, almost insatiable love of fun that nearly wore out this poor, unfortunate being. The veteran frog, as stated in ancient fable, exactly explained the situation amidst a shower of stones. Deficient as he was in the qualities needful to command respect, he seldom, if ever, failed to give a correct answer when the question was, "What is the day of the month?" He also gave exercises in singing, yelling and preaching. If a chair, box or barrel was furnished him for a rostrum, he never declined when invited to address the few or many. These efforts, it has been said, "were enough to make a colt break his halter." They were often unintentional burlesques, more characterized by entertainment than by instruction, yet some gifted men of high intellectual attainments will ever lack the important qualifications -- assurance, energy and earnestness -- as displayed by Ed. Gould from the last head left in an empty flour barrel. "The Scolding Wife" was the song best adapted to his operatic abilities -- his highest accomplishments in vocal music. In the chorus--
To bang me with a fire shovel
Around the room at night"
a very proper sympathy was excited for the unfortunate husband in this age of female domination. When the song of "Brave Wolfe" was called for, the whole air and manner of the singer changed. The smacking together of clenched hands, the fire and indignation, in singing the grievances of the unhappy subject of petticoat despotism ceased, and in soft, plaintive tones was heard:
'Tis for your sake, my love, if you'll accept it.
And then this gallant youth did cross the ocean,
To free America from her invasion.
The drums did loudly beat, the guns did rattle;
Brave Wolfe lay on his back, "How goes the battle?"
I went to see, my love, 'twas in my favor;
"Oh then," replied brave Wolfe, "I die with pleasure."
Then the cannon on our side did roar like thunder,
"And, have yer got eny terbacker with ye?"
"Be yer goin' to use that pipe for a few minutes?"
His Lecture On Millerism.-- "Now my Christian Friends, Rumsellers, Ter backer-chewers and Sabbath-breakers, you don't believe the world will all burn up next year, because you don't want to believe it; and that ain't all, you don't want a stop put to your deviltry. You are as bad as the folks was more than 40 years ago, when old Noah built his yark. When he told the folks the water was goin' to rise high as Chesterfield mountain and drown 'em all out, they didn't believe it, but they abused him, and made fun of him, and yer see how they got paid for it. Noah flew round like a house afire after stuff to build his yark. He went to Texas, Hinsdale and Chesterfield to buy lumber. He got some of his best sticks down to Jarro Burrows' mill, in Vernon; and farmer Wood with his stags did the teaming for nine-pence a perch. He got all the nails at Hall's store and paid for 'em in sheep pelts and dried apples. He hadn't but just got his yark done when the rain come down like pitchforks. But folks wouldn't believe Noah when the water was knee deep in Main street. Noah see how 'twas, and he opened the door and told 'em they better git aboard while they could; but they said it wasn't much of a shower, and soon over; then they began to yell and hoot, and the tarnal school boys snow-balled him so he had to go in and shut the door. But you know it wasn't long afore they wished he would open that door agin and take 'em aboard. This time the fishes will all be killed, and a yark such as Noah had wouldn't do yer any good. Nothin' will save ye now but to believe what I tell you, and being so good, the fire won't burn ye more'n t'will Hinsdale red oak. We must all stop being sinners. I have been a sinner myself. I stole rum from Hartwell Bills and denied it when they laid it to me. I went to court the Pierce girl and pretended all I wanted was a drink of water. I was a lying scamp and I've been sorry for it a good many times, and I shan't do so again next time I see her."
Ed. obtained some of the ideas from which this lecture was constructed by attending Millerite meetings at the Chapel on Canal street, in 1842. One of the preachers at the series of meetings held there at that time usually, when commencing his services, took off his coat and cravat. While disrobing himself to his shirtsleeves, he said to the audience, "Thank God, I know what it is to work for my living. I have laid many rods of stone wall in my day, but I have done with all such work forever. I have but one task before me, and that is of short duration. I shall never again visit my earthly home, for before I finish the work assigned me, before I can complete the circle marked out for me, the last great day will surely come and all the things in this world will burn up or melt with fervent heat. This mountain of rocks, now clad in the varied colors of autumnal beauty, will, before another autumn, melt down into the river and kill all the fish. Please to sing,
In that great day."
In an atmosphere charged with fumes of burning sulphur, a large share of the audience, judging from the sound, kept time with the singing by stamping their feet. Chipman Swain, Esq., our deputy sheriff, appeared in the sacred desk, on the left side of the preacher, and requested there be no more manifestations of disrespect for the services. He reminded all present of Vermont law, its impartiality in protecting all religious sects, and the penalties for persons who in any manner disturb assemblies gathered for religious worship. The tall, commanding form, authority, and very proper remarks of this executive officer prevented, it may be, the riotous opposition or persecution needful for the prosperity of this sect in Brattleboro. The awfully solemn words of the stone wall preacher fell mostly upon stony ground, and since this event more than thirty times has old Chesterfield mountain put on her annual gala dress, as in days of yore, while upon Ed. devolved the task to keep green the memories of the prophets by his oratorical efforts in the public streets.
At the conclusion of a lecture on phrenology, Ed. and "Jess Marsh" were persuaded to become subjects for examination by the lecturer before the audience. The next morning Ed. said, "They wouldn't let the phrenologer man tech us 'till they put a hankercher on my face and a hankercher on Jess' face. The phrenologer said we was both fools, but Jess was the biggest fool, 'cause he didn't know it, and I did."
One evening in a crowded meeting house, not very well lighted, Ed. was seated listening to a revival sermon from an itinerant minister. Immediately after the sermon, an invitation was given to all unconverted persons desiring prayers to occupy the "anxious seat." The reverend gentleman, depending upon his sagacity to detect mental emotion from appearances, left the pulpit, and by making personal applications, as he moved among the people, some persons went forward who otherwise would not, probably, have presented themselves. The serious, humble appearing Ed., as he sat with downcast eyes, attracted the attention of the vigilant shepherd. "My friend," said the preacher, as he grasped Ed. by the hand, "Is Christ precious to your soul?" The great, prominent blue eyes of Ed. opened wide with a vacant stare as he replied, "Wal, I dun know; guess it's pretty good plan." The faithful watchman said no more,
Henry Burnham, "Brattleboro, Windham County, Vermont. With Biographical Sketches of some of its Citizens. (Brattleboro: Published by D. Leonard, 1880), pages 170-172.
Ed Gould died Tuesday, February 14, 1871 aged forty-nine. His obituary notice in the Vermont Record and Farmer for the following Friday---
Poor Old Ed Gould is no more: he died on Tuesday last, aged 49 years. Ed was among the most generally known individuals of our town, and will be missed very much. He had been subject to the jibes and practical jokes of several generations of boys, sometimes amounting to downright cruelty, but we believe he was never known to retaliate in a manner which would have been deemed worthy such treatment, but kept on his way, happy that it was no worse. Our earnest prayer is that his tormenters may be as happy in the hereafter as we believe the object of their abuse now is.
Another notice in the Vermont Phoenix---
Among the deaths reported this week will be noticed that of poor Ed. Gould, for so many years an "institution" of our village. His disease was consumption.
The United States Census for 1850 Brattleboro gives the name as Edward Gould, 26 years old, but the 1860 Census gives---
The Vermont Phoenix for February 17, 1871 also gives the name Edwin.