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WITH NOTES AND QUERIES
THE ADVENTURES OF THE NOTORIOUS STEPHEN
BURROUGHS TEPHEN, the son of the Rev. Eden and Abigail (Davis) Burroughs, was born in 1766 at Killingly, Conn., where his father.
was pastor from 1760 to 1771. Stephen's early adventures, which foreshadow his future career, has as their scene, Hanover, N. H., where his father was pastor of Congregational churches from 1772 till he retired from the ministry in 1810, about three years before his death at the age of 75: and it can hardly do injustice to Stephen, and is certainly very illuminating as to his character, to give in his own words the first exploit which he records in his “Memoirs." “My thirst for amusement was insatiable, and as in my situation, the only dependence for that gratification was entirely within myself, I sought it in pestering others, especially those who were my superiors in age, and in making them appear in a ludicrous situation, so as to raise the laugh at their expense, and partake of the general diversion which such a matter created. My success in these undertakings was so great, that I be came the terror of the people where I lived, and all were very unanimous in declaring that Stephen Burroughs was the worst boy in town A neighbor of my father, an old man, had a fine yard of watermelons, which had been purloined by somebody for three or four succeeding nights; the old man, being of a hasty, petulant disposition, was determined to watch his watermelons with a club and severely beat the thief. One night he took his stand in a convenient place for watching, unknown to any one. Accident made me acquainted with the old man's situation, and suspecting his intention, I went to a son of his, a young man of about twenty, and told him I saw a man in the watermelon yard, whom I suspected to be the thief, and advised him to go cautiously to the yard, and peradventure he might catch him. Accordingly the young man went; but no sooner had he got into the yard, than the old man, supposing this to be the thief, rushed from his hiding-place,
-So scarce is the Memoirs of this remarkable man, that probably few of our readers have seen it. We are glad to be able to present this interesting summary of the book, by Mr. Eno.
and attacked his son with his club, and severely handled the poor fellow before he found out his mistake; the son, supposing the thief was beating him, bawled out to his father, who he expected was at the house,murder! father! father! murder! murder! This scene of merriment I enjoyed to the full, but soon paid for it through the nose. The plot being discovered, and the agent who set this machine in motion clearly detected, complaint was made, and I tasted of the same food I had so ingeniously cooked for the old man's son.”
Next, fired with romantic ideas of military prowess, by reading certain English novels with martial heroes, especially Guy, Earl of Warwick, Stephen, at the age or 14, enlisted in an artillery company, in Colonel Hazen's regiment of Continental troops then marching through Hanover; this was soon discovered, and his father having with some difficulty obtained his release, he waited for another opportunity, which occurred on the return march of the regiment about six weeks later when it encamped over Sunday about five miles from Mr. Burroughs' house; and taking advantage of his father's absence on an exchange with another pastor, Stephen tarried from church to make provision for running away to join the army; which, he did before dawn on Monday, armed with an old musket, a horn of powder, and thirty bullets, and bearing on his back a blanket tied full of bread and cheese and clothes. His father on returning home missed him and reached the camp before the regiment had left, begged off his son, and took him home, where he was guarded for that day and the next night, when the regiment was supposed to be beyond his reach. Being sent on an errand to the nearest neighbor's, about ten rods distant, at about 10 o'clock on the following day, he ran out of sight, and continued his journey till he reached the regiment, at a distance of about twenty-eight miles from his father's, and enlisted again, but with a different officer, who, after the boy's father had with much difficulty overtaken the marching troops, absolutely refused to discharge Stephen except with his own consent, which the latter, notwithstanding the entreaties of his father, and through him of his mother, resisted, and went on with the regiment to West Point, N. Y., the headquarters. Some skirmishes with the British took place at the Hudson river; but Stephen, being kept with the baggage, and given no chance to get killed, or, as he viewed it, to distinguish himself, cooled in his military ardor, and deserted to his father; who, in order to save his son from punishment, wrote a pathetic letter to General Washington, December 24, 1779, recounting Stephen's
living thing, Stephen having obtained leave of absence on the day before, and after preparing an accomplice to do the above errand, had gone to his father's.
About this time the Indians had destroyed some of the frontier settlements; and Hanover being in a similarly exposed position, the people were easily roused by any alarm. Stephen and others, having robbed a watermelon patch in the vicinity, taking the melons to a rendezvous half a mile away for eating, afterward separated, in order to return with less danger of discovery, to college. Stephen, with a companion, Paine, had nearly reached their rooms when they discovered a person walking before Burroughs' door; they turned back, rolling up their gowns like packs upon their backs; but the watchman had seen them, and gave chase; yet, by turning a short corner, Stephen escaped to his room undiscovered; the watchman, Higgins, ran on calling for help; amid this outcry, students ran out, Burroughs among them; Higgins reported two men whom he supposed to be Indians; the town was alarmed, the militia turned out, the boats on the river stopped, and the woods scoured; a search, fruitless, of course, continued all night.
But Higgins proved not to be the only one who had seen the boys; a Captain Storrs had seen and recognized both Burroughs and Paine; and instructor Wood getting hold of the story, by cajoling and threatening obtained from Paine a confession as to Burroughs; the latter, however, took time by the forelock, and as it was now sunrise, went to the owner of the watermelons with the story, that knowing he had watermelons for sale (which was true) he had come on the previous night to buy twelve; but finding the owner in bed, and needing the watermelons immediately had taken this early opportunity to pay him for them; the owner finding only twelve melons missing, accepted the story and the money, and gave a receipt; fortified with which Burroughs returned to college; where at ten o'clock he was summoned before the college authorities, and charged with the theft, and with the disgrace to his family and to the college, and told that probably he would be expelled from college. When this charge was finished, Burroughs boldly countercharged that the college had condemned him without any evidence that he was guilty; that he had merely bought watermelons and paid for them; in proof of which he produced the receipt; the owner being called, corroborated this, and so ended the proceedings. His escape from punishment by quick wit, here, as at Dr. Huntington's gave opportunity
siderable sum of money. This bait the old man eagerly swallowed, and took his stand accordingly for watching. The other part of this contrivance I was to act myself, as being the best fitted for it, on account of my superior agility. Accordingly, about ten at night, I crept along close to the garden fence till I came, as though by accident, near to the old man, at which I turned and ran, and he after me. Being abundantly able to outrun him, I kept but a very small distance before him in order to raise his expectations of being able to overtake me; when coming to the edge of a ditch which contained about three feet depth of mud and filth, I clapped down on my hands and knees before the old man, and he stumbled over me plump into the ditch . .
Emboldened by his escapes from punishment, Stephen took part in a practical joke on Dr. Huntington himself, and soon after in another piece of mischief which determined the Doctor to get rid of him; returning him to his father with a letter, an extract from which explains the real cause, though smoothed by the suggestion that Stephen was now ready for college: "Stephen was so unguarded, about the middle of June last, as to take and use a horse several times, and that even in a cruel manner, without the knowledge of the owner, who lived not in my parish I took and pastured the horse eight weeks, and repaired all damage more than seven fold; I also offered the man two crowns if he would settle the matter without a lawsuit, and took every other step I could think of to save expense and prevent a public noise; but all in vain. The monster knew that the law in such a case is extremely severe, awarding threefold damages and all costs; and nothing could glut his infernal malice till he had drawn your son before authority; and for threefold damages and costs, obtained judgment against him for about fifteen dollars The affair gave me unspeakable distress of mind, and kept me awake several nights.”
This letter of Dr. Huntington's was dated September 5, 1781, shortly before the date of examinations for admission to Dartmouth College; at which examination Stephen passed; but his father was careful to procure him a room with one of the instructors, Jacob Wood, of whose devotion to religious matters, Stephen soon took advantage. One evening while Mr. Wood was calling upon a young lady religiously minded like himself, word was brought to him that Stephen was expiring in a fit of epilepsy, and desired him to pray with and for him. Mr. Wood and the lady hurried to the room, to find it empty of every