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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous Sarah Knowles Bolton

Maria Mitchell

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Meanwhile another life was carrying out its cherished plan, and Miss Mitchell, unknowingly, was to have an important part in it. Soon after the Revolutionary War there came to this country an English wool-grower and his family, and settled on a little farm near the Hudson River. The mother, a hard-working and intelligent woman, was eager in her help toward earning a living, and would drive the farm-wagon to market, with butter and eggs, and fowls, while her seven-year-old boy sat beside her. To increase the income some English ale was brewed. The lad grew up with an aversion to making beer, and when fourteen, his father insisting that he should enter the business, his mother helped him to run away. Tying all his worldly possessions, a shirt and pair of stockings, in a cotton handkerchief, the mother and her boy walked eight miles below Poughkeepsie, when, giving him all the money she had, seventy-five cents, she kissed him, and with tears in her eyes saw him cross the ferry and land safely on the other side. He trudged on till a place was found in a country store, and here, for five years, he worked honestly and industriously, coming home to his now reconciled father with one hundred and fifty dollars in his pocket.

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Changes had taken place. The father's brewery had burned, the oldest son had been killed in attempting to save something from the wreck, all were poorer than ever, and there seemed nothing before the boy of nineteen but to help support the parents, his two unmarried sisters, and two younger brothers. Whether he had the old dislike for the ale business or not, he saw therein a means of support, and adopted it. The world had not then thought so much about the misery which intoxicants cause, and had not learned that we are better off without stimulants than with them.

Every day the young man worked in his brewery, and in the evening till midnight tended a small oyster house, which he had opened. Two years later, an Englishman who had seen Matthew Vassar's untiring industry and honesty, offered to furnish all the capital which he needed. The long, hard road of poverty had opened at last into a field of plenty. Henceforward, while there was to be work and economy, there was to be continued prosperity, and finally, great wealth.

Realizing his lack of early education, he began to improve himself by reading science, art, history, poetry, and the Bible. He travelled in Europe, and being a close observer, was a constant learner.

One day, standing by the great London hospital, built by Thomas Guy, a relative, and endowed by him with over a million dollars, Mr. Vassar read these words on the pedestal of the bronze statue:--


The last three words left a deep impression on his mind. He had no children. He desired to leave his money where it would be of permanent value to the world. He debated many plans in his own mind. It is said that his niece, a hard-working teacher, Lydia Booth, finally influenced him to his grand decision.

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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous
Sarah Knowles Bolton

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