Biography of Sarah Eddy
Battle Creek, Calhoun County, Michigan
Copyright © 1999 by Marcia Kuder
|This was a booklet
to honor the passing of a great lady. Given at her
Sarah Eddy Bowen Hussey
The late decease of a venerable lady at Battle Creek has called forth many
kind and happy words, and it is well.
It is not in our nature to bear such partings with a voiceless pathos. The
chords of sympathy and affection when struck by such a visitation are made to
throb too earnestly for that.
We are yet watching the purpling West all aglow with the tints of a full-
orbed sunset, and have only to turn to the kindling East to rejoice at a new-
A wish to inscribe some further tribute to the memory of one of the noblest
mothers of our time, is the cause of this writing.
In 1640 Richard Bowen, a man of Welch stock, emigrated to Weymouth in
Massachusetts, but shortly afterward settled in the neighboring town of
Rehoboth, where he died in 1675. Sarah Eddy Bowen Hussey, through Benjamin
Bowen her father, was the eighth in direct descent from the Welch emigrant'
her mother, Lucretia Baker, having come from good old English stock and it is
the testimony of authentic annals that it was a great good to be so born. She
first saw the light at Worcester, in Massachusetts, on the 24th of January,
1808, but was taken by her parents in early childhood to Cayuga county, in New
York, where they established a new home, she being the eldest of six children,
all of whom have passed away, save an aged brother, who is now living on the
old homestead. It was there that she passed the formative period of her
girlhood. The social conditions were peculiar. Her parents and immediate
relatives were members of the Society of Friends; and the society was not only
held in high respect by non-members, but impressed itself most happily upon
them. There was great unity of sentiment on behalf of literature and science
and pure morals; but the light of Quaker anti-slavery, though living, was not
yet ablaze. The names of many who composed the favored community are well
known to the public, and several are yet represented in the old neighborhood.
There were the Bowens, the Husseys, the Dennises, the Thomases, the
Delanos, the Morgans, the Burnhams, the Thompsons, the Cuylers, the Woods, the
Wrights, and many others; and as fate would have it, quite a number were of
On the 21st of February, 1827, Sarah intermarried with Erastus E Hussey,
then a young man in the same neighborhood and station, who gave promise of the
high and useful life he subsequently led. His fortune was not in money, but
in capacity and the qualities which deserve and achieve success. He had
graduated in the same social atmosphere as his wife, and had breathed in the
like moral and religious ideas. In person he was exceptionally comely. Not
far from six feet in height; his whole figure bespoke the possession of many
strength and vigor. His countenance was benevolent and winning, and denoted a
temper and spirit joyous and trustworthy. No one who ever met him can forget
his sparkling brown eyes, his companionable good nature, and his readiness to
make others comfortable so far
as might be.
Prior to the marriage, and in 1824, he had chosen for his future home a
spot in the deep woods of eastern Michigan. It was in the bounds of what is
now Plymouth, in Wayne county, and nine miles from the nearest inhabitant and
fifteen miles from a public raod; and to this wild, though charming plac,e the
young ouple went heroically in July, 1827.
The settlement then made was the first by a patentee in that township. The
vicissitudes and hardships encountered can hardly be imagined by those who
have had no similar experience. Accustomed to the comforts and privileges
which made life so hospitable in the home they had left, it was a severe
ordeal to face the denials and perils of the new situation; and not the least
of the missing blessings was the circulating library and the debating society.
It was not pleasant to forego the choicer table supplies to which they had
been used, but it was easier to bear some dearth in the larder than suffer a
famine to the understanding. And so it was, that no sooner had Mr and Mrs
Hussey found shelter at their forest home than they began to contrive for a
library and for little gatherings for mental improvement, and as far as
possible, this purpose was carried forward on the coming of neighbors willing
In the year succeeding the settlement at Plymouth, and on the 27th of
January, 1828, their beloved and ony child, Susan Tabor Hussey, was born to
them, and by the bounty of Heaven her life has been prserved that she might
minister for her parents to the last.
If any one virtue may have precedence over others, it is surely this
filial, unselfish and ungrudging goodness which gives heaping measure to weak
and dependent age for the love and nurture lavished on helpless infancy.
The daughter has been twice married her first husband, Henry B Denman,
falling a victim to consumption. She subsequently united with Erastus H.
Hussey, a cousin of her father and friends have not forgotten that within a
period not very broad, her father and her first husband sat in the Legislature
of Michigan, and the second husband sat in that of New York. No comment is
needed on such evidence of public favor and personal worth.
Among the felicities of this felicitious union has been the joint and
unceasing care and attention bestowed on the aged parents. In alluding to the
affliction borne by the daughter, it is not to be forgotten that her only
child, Frederick Henry Denman, was snatched from her by death in his early
In 1836 the Plymouth farm was sold, and the father and mother and little
daughter spent several months among relatives and acquaintances in New England
and neighboring states; but preferring Michigan as a residence, they selected
Battle Creek and permanently settled there in 1838.
The occasion is not opportune for much of detail concerning Mrs. Hussey's
life during her long residence at Battle Creek. It was of the very essence of
her Quaker faith to bear testimony for liberty and against slavery and all
forms of oppression; to stand for the truth; to labor for temperance; to
adhere to the precepts of Christian conscience, even before armies of modern
Pilates. Hence she could not help being an abolitionist, and she was an
abolitionist, but her abolitionism was tempered by the virtue of prudence and
a serene wisdom which, according to her light, forbade the extremes to which
many good people felt impelled. She could not harmonize the workings of
conscience with the workings of the understanding, and forget the sentiment
that our good bard once put in the the mouth of a being born of his fancy:
"Count it not holy, to hurt by being just." In all this it was her happiness
to be in perfect accord with her husband. From first to last their hearts
beat as one.
Not long after 1840 the views of duty and the march of events constrained
them to sever all former party ties and lead in the formation of a new party
having for its pole star the extinction of slavery in the United States. The
beginning was feeble in numbers, and so much disliked that it often brought
down the fury of mobs. The movement seemed reckless as well as hopeless, but
it went on, and during all the subsequent years to the crowning glory of
success, the husband and wife labored together with speech and pen and purse.
Their home was the never-failing asylum for the fleeing slave, and their hands
the ever ready ones to give him succor.
Let it not be imagined, however, that the well-springs of Quaker charity,
or the Quaker belief in good works, found no other channels. Nowhere within
the circuit of their ability was any true merit allowed to languish. No
innocent sorrow lacked pity, no deserving sufferer went without alms.
On the 21st day of January, 1889, the devoted husband and father was
summoned away by age and infirmities, and the sacred widowhood began which
ended not until March 22d, 1899.
Mrs Hussey bore the separation with the resignation and fortitude taught
by her faith. She never at any time swerved from the cardinal doctrine of
Friends; but she was as far as could be from bigotry and all idolatry to
formalism. Always tolerant to the modes of others if not harmful, it was not
her way to adopt singularities except for solid reasons. Ever partial on
grounds she thought cogent to the language, and much in the manners and style
of dress of the "plain people" of the society, she was never able to stake
great interests or even the lines of neighborly intercourse on such
Whether a noble deed or utterance came from one wearing the garb of Harriet
Beecher Stowe of Julia Ward Howe, or that of Lucretia Mott, it was equally
precious, and a beautiful thought by Longfellow was never challenged because
it was not hymned by Barton or Whittier.
Her temperament, her mental aptitudes, her tastes and moral tendencies all
concurred to form a striking personality. Always magnanimous without yielding
principle, and though composed and placid, still firm and efficient in the
behalf of right and justice. Her simple presence seemed to voice the holy
words, "On earth peace' good will toward men." Nothing remembered can better
illustrate her literary appreciaition and the forgiving spirit she loved, than
a fragment from her early reading which was stored away among the treasures of
her memory. The author having ascribed the inadvertence of a forbidden word
to an impulse of virtue, wound up his metaphor with this exquisite stroke:
"The accusing spirit flew up to Heaven's Chancery with the oath, and the
recording angel as he wrote it down dropped a tear upon the page and blotted
it out forever. " So in her life she chose to blot out injuries rather than
A few words more. It is difficult to think of Mrs Hussey apart from that
appearance of person which she bore in life. Whilst all who met her were
moved to regard her as handsome, the impression was hardly owing to any
particular features, but rather to the effect of all combined as set off by a
singular grace of manner. No doubt, however, her eyes and complexion largely
assisted to win the effect.
She was somewhat above middle height, and all parts of her figure conspired
to lend ease and dignity. There was no fault of symmetry to impair the
general effect. Her air was full of equanimity, and her motions neither too
quick nor too slow. She was a blonde of the "damask" type, and down past
middle life, and before the frost of age had silvered it, her abundant hair
was a warm brown. To the last her face remained unfurrowed and unwrinkled. .
Her eyes were large and deeply blue and strikingly expressive. They were
truly "windows of the soul." When in health her voice was soft and clear' and
some still linger, who in years that are gone, rejoiced to hear it from the
high seats in the old meeting house on the hill.
Notwithstanding her great age, she never lost her faculties or her
interest in affairs, and was always ready to welcome the coming messenger she
knew was not far away. During the closing years she divided her attention
between sacred and other literature, the converse with friends, and various
sorts of artistic work, in which she displayed exquisite taste. "Hail and
"There is no flock, however watched and tended,
But one dead lamb is there'
There is no fireside, howsoe'er defended,
But has one vacant chair."
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