folder 24: Autobiography of Charles A. Hentz, Part I

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MY AUTOBIOGRAPHY

Dr. C.A. Hentz

VOLUME I

Originals on file in the Southern Historical Collection

University of North Carolina Library Chapel Hill

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MY AUTOBIOGRAPHY.

I was born on the 28th day of May 1827 - in Chapel Hill, North Carolina - my father being at the time Professor of Modern Languages & Belles Lettres in the State University at that place. He was born in Versailles, 3 miles from Paris in France, on the 26th of July 1797; his father, having been an active and prominent Republican, was amongst the many who were proscribed or banished, on the restoration of Louis Philippe. They came to this country in 1816 - Some on my grandfather's children remained in France, but most of them accompanied him to this country -; They set sail from Havre de Grace on the bark Eugene - Capt. d'Estebacke - on the 22nd of January - arriving in New York on the 19th of March - I get these data from an old parchment covered volume which is now before me, the entries written in the French language, and in the cramped hand writing peculiar to foreigners.

They remained in New York 8 days, "awaiting the execution of the formalities necessary to obtain their effects from the vessel & the custom house. They then spent three weeks in Elizabeth Town, awaiting the wagon that was to take them to Berwick Pa - They arrived in Berwick on the 17th of April, and on the 1st of May went to housekeeping in a house belonging to a Mr. Brane -, situated on the banks of the Susquehanna &c. How strikingly do these accounts of plodding and delay contrast with the rapid transit of the present day - My grandfather, I think, remained in Berwick, or Wilkesberry until his death

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at the advanced age of 84.

My father had read medicine in the Hospital Val-de-Grace in Paris; he dressed the wounds of many of the Soldiers of Napoleon. I remember hearing him tell many scenes & interesting anecdotes connected with those days. He attended also a course of Medical Lectures at Harvard University in the class of 1820-21. I have his old tickets for that course - lectures on Anatomy by Dr. J.C. Warren-; Materia Medica by Dr Jacob Bigelow; practice by Dr Jas. Jackson; Chemistry by Dr. J. Gorham; Med Jurisprudence by Dr. Channing; but he gave up the idea of practicing; very wisely so too I think.

He was an accomplished artist; having attended thorough courses of instruction in Painting &c in France; he painted miniatures exquisitely; and employed himself in teaching painting and French to classes, mostly of young ladies, in various places - Boston & Philadelphia chiefly - At one time he was employed as tutor in the family of a wealthy South Carolina planter on Sullivan's Island, by the name of Morris -

He was an enthusiastic student of Natural History, and devoted his leisure hours to the study of insects; especially of spiders; in which department of entomology he was a pioneer in this country. He was an active member of the Academy of Natural Sciences; an organization that flourished in those days in Philadephia. An ardent friendship, cemented by a kindred enthusiasm, with regard to the study of insects, existed for many years between him, and Dr. Thaddeus Wm. Harris,

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who was, for a long term of years, the Librarian of Harvard College, and who has been the author of many valuable works on Insects -; they carried on a voluminous correspondence for many years - My brother Thaddy was named after him - My father was engaged with the Hon. Geo. Bancroft who has recently (anno1891) died at the extreme age of over 90-; in teaching in the Round Hill School for boys at Northhampton Mass. It was at this time he became acquainted with my mother, Miss Caroline Lee Whiting of Lancaster, Mass; she was the youngest child in the large family of Capt. John Whiting, who served gallantly in the Revolutionary Army. Several of his brothers were graduates of West Point. Gen[1]. Henry Whiting of the U.S. Army was one of them.

She and my father were married on Sept. 30th, 1824 - They resided for more than a year at Northhampton, where a son named Marcellus Fabius was born to them; on Sept 6th, 1825.

They removed to Chapel Hill, North Carolina in the fall of 1826 - I will insert here, the copy of a letter written on this journey to her mother & sister in Lancaster - by my mother -

Portsmouth, Va. Nov. 5th, 1826. "My dear sisters - You have ere this, received my letter from Phila.; informing you of our safe arival there, and I will now go back to that period, after expressing the heartfelt delight we experienced from the contents of *Solon's

*Solon & Henry - his brothers.

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affectionate letter the knowledge of your being at home, and of *Henry's safe arrival. Our stay in Phila. was extremely pleasant; Mr. Hentz was there greeted by his scientific friends with great cordiality and politeness, among whom are some of the first men in the city - Mr. John Vaughan, and Mr. Duponceau; men whose names are well known; they both did me the honor to call & see me, which, from their very retired habits, was a great compliment - To Mrs. Astley we are under infinite obligations -; we were very much puzzled to find the place of her residence, as Mrs. Cleveland made a mistake in the name of the street; a friend of Mr. Hentz, however, gave him the name, and the letter was left; she called immediately with her daughter and invited us to take tea with us; came herself in the afternoon in her carriage & carried us all around the suburbs of the city, showing us most of the wonders & beauties of the place - We dined there the following Sunday, & accompanied her to church in the afternoon & evening; - the churches are more superb than any I ever saw; the decorations magnificent, and when illuminated by innumerable moonlight lamps, the effect is solemn & imposing; on Monday Mrs. Astley carried us to the Orphan's & Widow's Asylum; it was one of the most interesting scenes I ever witnessed - they are surrounded with every comfort, in fine houses, commanding the most delightful prospect - It is really a lovely sight to see 96 orphan children, presenting on their blooming and innocent faces a picture of

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