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ART. I.-HENRY B. BASCOM.
At about eight o'clock on a Sunday morning, in May, 1832, I stood in a huddled group of impatient men and women in front of the old St. George's Methodist Church, on Fourth-street, below New, in Philadelphia, waiting for the doors of the quaint edifice to be opened. By nine o'clock the crowd was numbered by hundreds, and thronged the street, and when at last the doors were opened the rush that followed was fearful. Within a few minutes every seat in the house was taken ; the passages, and even windows, were filled by people of all sorts and conditions, who sat or stood two hours longer, awaiting the beginning of the service at eleven o'clock. The preacher had to enter the church through a window at the back by the help of a ladder, and found no small trouble in edging his way through the chancel and up the pulpit steps, so dense was the throng. As he stood to give out the hymn, the breathless multitude looked upon one of the handsomest men that ever trod this continent. Had he lived in Greece, Phidias might have wrought his form, face, and head into marble, and called it Apollo. That preacher was Henry Bidleman Bascom, then thirty-six years of age, in the prime of his manly beauty, intellectual vigor, and extraordinary eloquence, the most conspicuous preacher in the General Conference of the Methodist Church, at that time sitting in Philadelphia, and
FOURTH SERIES, VOL. XXXV.-14
filling a larger space in the public eye than any other in the country. I was only in my ninth year, yet cannot forget, after half a century, the impression made by his supreme beauty and transcendent power.
He was the son of Alphens and Hannah Houk Bascom, born on the 27th of May, 1796, in the town of Hancock, Delaware County, N. Y., two miles from what is now the village of Chehocton, on the New York and Erie Railway. On the father's side his blood was Huguenot French, intermixed with the Puritan of England and New England; on his mother's it was Ger
The wilderness was his school-house, poverty and hardship his course of study, and adversity the head-master, whose lessons he had to con and floggings to endure for most of his life. He learned to read and write, and had a little instruction in the beginning of an English education, before his twelfth year, but the next time he stepped into an academy was as a professor.
Although sober, industrious, and virtuous, his father never was beforehand with the world, except in matter of wives, of whom three fell to his lot, and of children, in which species of wealth he was equal of the patriarch Jacob, for twelve were born in his house, of whom Henry was the second. From the picturesque banks of the Delaware, where his boyhood was passed, he removed, with his father's family, to Little Valley, in southwestern New York, in 1808, and had a yet sharper experience of the frontier of civilization, for the Seneca Indians were still the lords of the soil and there were few whites in the district. When fourteen years old he was converted to the faith of Christ, in the next year joined the Methodist Church, and soon after began to take part in religious meetings, exhorting the people to flee from the wrath to come and to lay hold on eternal life. Soon after this the family made another move toward the setting sun, and at last found a restingplace five miles north of Maysville, Ky.—then called Limestone-in the State of Ohio. He had worked upon the farm, bored logs, made pumps, was a drayman, a hewer of wood, a rail splitter, in short, had turned his hand, with his whole might, to whatever kind of labor offered, meanwhile snatching the brief hours of rest he could get to be used, with still greater energy, in committing to the unrelaxing grasp of his
memory the contents of what few books fell in his way, and in using his gift to warn and counsel his fellow men. He believed himself called to be an embassador for God, in Christ's stead, to beseech men to be reconciled to him, and burned with a quenchless ardor to be about his Master's work. When sixteen years old he felled the trees and made rails for twenty-five cents per hundred, and thus earned the money to equip himself as a recruit in the forlorn hope of backwoods preachers, and set out from his father's house, in September, 1812, for the session of the Ohio Conference, held at Chillicothe. He there saw and heard the venerable and sagacious Bishop Asbury, and also the great and wise Bishop M'Kendree, then in the flower of his age and the meridian of his power, whose weighty and burning words, reinforced, as they were, by the singleness and loftiness of their aims and motives, wrought mightily in his sensitive spirit, and gave an unchanging form to his character. A first attendance at the session of an Annual Conference, to a young candidate for holy orders, is a memorable experience. The order of business; the grave and dignified presidency of the Bishops; the striking individuality, physiognomy, and impressive voices of the men who take the principal parts in the proceedings; the sermons; the prayers; the singing; the experiences given in the “love-feast;" the meetings around hospitable boards; the stories of adventure, perils, humor, and fun; the intimate fellowship; the esprit du corps, such as reigns in no other body of men I have known, give it a power to subdue and discipline, yet to kindle and inspire, that can hardly elsewhere be found. The consummation is reached when the parliamentary business is completed, the journal read, and one of the oldest members gives out the hymn beginning
And let our bodies part,
To different climes repair;
The friends of Jesus are
that hymn sung by a hundred and fifty men or more, whose homes and those of their families, their spheres of labor, with circumstances of privation, exposure, toil, poverty, perhaps of suffering and death, are unknown to them, but are presently to be announced by the venerable Bishop; then follows the tremulous, fervent, pathetic, spiritual prayer of the aged serv
ant of God, during which tears flow freely, sobs and amens are heard, and then, in the breathless silence, the Bishop stands, and, in a voice betraying deep emotion, tells them that, in the exercise of his great power, he has humbly sought the help and guidance of Christ; that in the places to which he is sending them, they may have many a peril and many a sorrow; that they may be cold and hungry, scoffed and hissed at, weary and heavy laden; that probably they will not all meet again on earth; that whoever falls must fall at his post with his face Zionward; and then, exhorting them to endure hardness as good soldiers, he promises the hidden but sufficient cheer and support and eternal blessing of the Great Head of the Church—“And now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you an inheritance among them which are sanctified,” “an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away.” His address ended, he slowly reads the name of each District, Station, Circuit, and the men appointed to them. I have witnessed many a scene of deep dramatic interest, where nerves and brain were thrilled and the heart almost stood still, but none which, in breathless emotion, intense, almost tragic, feeling, and high heroic aspect, compare with the closing scenes of a Western Conference in the early days, when hundreds of men heard their fate from the lips of one man, and took their lives in their hands to obey his behest, loyally believing him to be, for them and theirs, the mouth of God's great Providence. One can easily imagine the effect of such a scene, and the influences which led up to it, upon an imaginative, sensitive, sympathetic nature like Bascom's. That session of the Conference, for him, was more than equal in value to a year's schooling, and he returned to his father's log cabin with impulse, courage, zeal, and devotion quickened as by the baptism of the Holy Ghost. His unworldliness and purity of spirit can scarce be questioned when it is remembered what the work was to be and its earthly wages. The salary of the Bishops was eighty dollars a year, and their annual journeys on horseback took them from the St. Lawrence to the Savannah and Tallapoosa, from the shores of the Atlantic, over the mountains, through cane-brake, forest, prairie, and swamp, to the banks of the Mississippi and Missouri; their saddle-bags