was first settled in 1788. Six years
later, on April 24, 1794, a son was born
to one of the original settlers, Samuel
Ashmun, and his wife Parthenia.
Ashmun attended Middlebury College and
University of Vermont. He earned his way
by teaching in his native village.
His future wife, Catherine D. Gray,
also taught in Champlain.
graduation he served as a professor in the
Theological Seminary at Bangor, Maine, but
in 1819 moved to Baltimore and to
Washington, where he edited several
this time he became active in the American
Colonization Society, which was
endeavoring to establish a colony in
Africa for former slaves. In 1822 he and
his wife sailed for this newly created
settlement of Liberia with the second
shipload of colonists, intending to return
to America immediately.
on his arrival in Africa in August, he
found the colony in a wretched state of
disorder and demoralization, without
leaders due to death and desertion, and on
the point of extinction thru incursions of
the neighboring natives.
extraordinary energy and ability he
undertook the task of reorganization.
In November he was attacked by a
force of 800 natives. Although he
and his wife were both stricken by fever,
he repelled the attack with only 35 men
and boys under him. A few days later
a larger attacking force was repulsed.
wife died shortly thereafter, but Jehudi
Ashmun remained in Liberia for six years.
Working incessantly for the
development of the colony, he expanded its
territory, increased its agriculture and
commerce, codified its laws, and initiated
a democratic form of government. In
July, 1828, completely broken in health,
he returned to America. Less than a
month later, on August 25, 1828, he died
in New Haven, Connecticut, where he is
Ashmun—the Father of Liberia.
invites you to be present
Unveiling of a Memorial
August 8th, 1959
CHAMPLAIN FESTIVAL AND OLD HOME WEEK IS
SPONSORED BY THE VILLAGE OF CHAMPLAIN AS
ITS PARTICIPATION IN THE NEW YORK STATE
HISTORY AND THE 35OTH
THE DISCOVERY OF LAKE
EARLY LIFE IN
CHAMPLAIN, NEW YORK
SIX LETTERS CONCERNING
HIS LAST DAYS AND
CHAMPLAIN, N. Y.
EARLY LIFE IN
CHAMPLAIN, NEW YORK
SIX LETTERS CONCERNING
HIS LAST DAYS AND
These NOTES ON JEHUDI
ASHMUN cover two periods in his life.
The first reviews everything that
has been learned about his youth until he
left Champlain, never to return. The
information has been gleaned from the LIFE
OF JEHUDI ASHMUN by Ralph Randolph Gurley,
published in 1835, and from the research
among local records by my father, Hugh
The second section is
composed of six letters discovered last
year among the PAPERS OF THE AMERICAN
COLONIZATION SOCIETY in the Library, of
Congress. It is believed that they
have not previously been published. These
letters cover the last few months of his
life, with his hopes of returning to
Champlain, and his death and funeral in
New Haven, Connecticut.
A poem to his memory,
written shortly after his death by the New
England poet, Mrs. Sigourney, will be
found on the back outside cover.
The site of Jehudi
Ashmun's birthplace, on Oak Street just
north of the Village of Champlain, is
indicated by an Historical Sites Marker,
erected by the State of New York in 1938.
Charles Woodberry McLellan
Champlain, N. Y., August 1959
Ashmun in Champlain
Ashmun left his native village of Champlain in
1816, before he was twenty-two years old—never
again to see his parents, his brothers and
sisters, his boyhood friends.
his diaries and his letters, as published in his
Life in 1835, and from the meagre surviving
local records, we can learn something of his
childhood and youth—not a great deal, but
sufficient to show the development of his
character and the growth of his consuming
determination to obtain an education.
earliest reference to him is found in a Day Book
of one of Champlain's first doctors, Dr.
Benjamin Moore. On August 2, 1805,
medicine valued at twelve and a half cents was
delivered to "Samuel Ashmun Esqr pr Huda".
to the Records of the Presbyterian Church, on
April 5, 1807, "Samuel Ashmun and Mary, Nancy,
Jehuda, Raymond, Samuel, Hariot, Eunice and
Orson Branch, his Children by Parthena his wife"
were baptised by Rev. Amos Pettengill.
Three years later, on July 15, 1810,
"Jahudi Ashman" was received into the Church as
his Life we find that he commenced his
studies—beyond that which was to be obtained in
the local school—in 1808, under the tutelage of
Rev. Pettengill, in preparation for further
formal education. These studies were
seemingly continued for the next three years,
with occasional trips away from home on account
of his health. During this period he
considered the possibility of studying medicine
or the law‑ in 1811 he obtained brief employment
with a lawyer in the city of Troy, New York—but
finally determined that his life must be devoted
to educational and missionary labors.
1812, therefore, he entered Middlebury College.
Two years later he transferred to the
University of Vermont at Burlington, seemingly
for economic reasons, where he graduated in 1816
with the degrees of A.B. and A.M. and with
"literary honors". His college career was
repeatedly interrupted by poor health; in 1813
he is travelling in Vermont, and in 1814 in
one of these trips, probably in 1813, the death
of two of his sisters called him home, and it is
presumed that it was at this time that "he
organized and took command of a military corps".
During these war years Champlain was
alternately occupied by British and American
troops, and Jehudi was greatly perturbed by the
burning by the British of the
church-schoolhouse, although justified by the
fact that it was at the time being used as an
American military depot.
size of his family prevented much parental
financial assistance, resulting in further
interruptions in his efforts to complete his
college education by the necessity of earning
his own living and tuition. This he accomplished
by teaching school, at least one season in
fragment of school records has been preserved
which show that the "First Common School
District in the Town of Champlain" paid $66.00
in March 1815 to "Mr Jehudi Ashmun for
Instruction". On July 17th of the same year
$24.00 was paid to "Miss Catherine Gray
Instructress" and $21.00 to "Mr Ichabod Fitch
for Boarding Instructress". It is
interesting to note that Jehudi's father Samuel
was one of the three School Trustees at the
has failed to identify Catherine Gray, beyond
the fact that she had attended a girl's school
in Middlebury, Vermont. Whether Jehudi
first met her there, and suggested her to the
Champlain school as a teacher, or whether he met
her in Champlain while they were both teaching
there, has not been determined. However,
an attachment was formed, resulting in their
marriage three years later. In 1822 she
accompanied him to Liberia, where she died three
months after their arrival.
his graduation from the University of Vermont in
1816, Jehudi accepted a position as the first
instructor in the newly founded Maine Charity
School. So far as has been discovered, he
never returned to Champlain, nor saw any of his
Ashmun, as has been stated, suffered from poor
health during much of his life. While this
may be partially attributed to physical causes,
a certain amount must be laid to the intensity
of his character. He was ever a strict
self-disciplinarian and task-master, as is shown
in his Journals which account for every waking
moment devoted to some form of self-improvement
or labors in behalf of others.
may judge something of his intensity from a
letter written to him in 1817 by a clergyman,
one of the Trustees of the Maine Charity School:
have preached twenty-five times in two months;
that is, is times more than you ought to have
preached. You do right to tell me your faults,
and I shall do right in reproving you.
Hear me then. If you will persist
in preaching at such a rate, your race will be
short. You ought to begin as you can
hold out. Preach only when duty calls, and
attend more to a regular course of studies.
Count me not your enemy, because I thus write.
It is not the language of hatred, but of
typifies his method of working throughout his
life. His perpetual urge to keep going, his
feeling that he could not relax for a moment,
his sense of obligation toward his fellow
men—these as much as a frail body brought him to
an early grave.
The Last Days of Jehudi Ashmun
six letters here printed are addressed to
the officers of the American Colonization
Society at Washington, D. C., and are now
in the Library of Congress. They are given
without comment, to avoid detracting from
the pathetic story here unfolded.
[Liberia] 18 Mar. 1828
will sail tomorrow or next day; the Doris
to follow in 4 days—on bd of
which I am compelled by failing health,
& the Dr's express injunction, to take
passage for the U. States. I trust you
will not indulge in ominous apprehensions
on acct of the Colony. Its affairs, thank
God, are gathered into a very convenient
compass—& Mr. Cary, a man of very
great influence & experience, takes
My disorder is
extreme & fixed debility, attended
with symptoms of dispepsia and dropsy.
Mr Cary pronounces it not possible
to recover strength or to live long
without a change of climate and habits.
In haste &
weakness Dr Sir
Bartholomews, West Indies, May 20, 1828.
I avail myself
of the sailing of a Baltimore Schooner, to
inform you that I have found considerable
relief of my most formidable and painful
symptoms, since the sailing of the Doris
on the Izi.th. But having been the whole
time under the action of very sharp
medical remedies, I am alarmed to state
how greatly my little remaining strength
and flesh have been diminished in the
time. My only hope turns on the prospect
that remains [ tear] the morbid affections
yielding soon enough to leave me life and
stamina enough to recover on. The last
report of my physician, who I believe to
possess both candor and skill, was
favourable, with the assurance that from
present appearances he could venture to
change the attenuating treatment, for the
tonic, in 3 or four days.
I need not say
that in case of my recovery I intend to
proceed without delay to the U. States.
But should no immediate conveyance offer
at such time from this Island, I shall
probably proceed first to St. Croix, and
spend some little time in collecting by
observation and inquiry, in that highly
cultivated Island, such information
respecting the culture of tropical
products, and obtaining such seed, as we
have so long & severely felt the need
of in Liberia.
particular esteem & respect—your frd
New Haven August 17,
doubtless apprized of Mr Ashmun's arrival
here a week this day. I take it upon me to
write to you this morning after having
just been to enquire after Mr Ashmun. I
did not see him but was informed that he
had a bad night but probably owing to
medicines which were intended to operate
with some vigor and actually broke up his
On his first
arrival here he thought he should proceed
within a few days for the Saratoga
Springs—a course which Dr Ives
favoured—provided he should appear able to
bear it. With this view Dr Ives thought it
not best to enter on any very urgent
course of medicine & Mr Ashmun acted
as if he hoped to get up by riding out
& by travelling &c. & began to
take his meals with the company at the
Tontine & to endeavor to act like a
But it will
not do. He is now removed to a good
private house (Miss Miller's in Chapel
Street) & is now treated as a sick
man—has a nurse & is going through a
course of medical treatment intended to
produce a resolution, if possible, of his
complaints—which are dropsical—with
probably a diseased state of the liver
& spleen & great abdominal
But as he may
sink either under the disease or the
treatment & as it has struck me that
it might be important that you should
personally communicate with him—respecting
the great interests of the establishment
before it is too late—I now write with Dr
lye's approbation to let you know that if
you wish to see Mr Ashmun it may be
important that you should lose no time,
especially as there may be a debilitude of
faculties even if life is prolonged.
I am afraid
that this very interesting & useful
man will never leave New Haven.
In haste I
remain my dear sir
PS I PM Sab.
I have opened
my letter to say that I have seen Mr
Ashmun. I did not tell him that I had
written but he requested me to do so &
to say that if there were no very
forbidding reason, it is his wish that you
should come to him immediately—tell him,
said he, that there are many things which
I would communicate were he here,
respecting the Colony, respecting Africa
& respecting my private affairs—that
Mr Hawley has probably gone on his journey
(up the Hudson &c) & missed the
information that I am here.
He said, I am
sinking & requesting Mr Bacon to pray
with him—he instructed him to pray for his
recovery that he might be permitted to
return to Africa—to pray also for the
Colony—with the mention of which he was
overpowered & agitated & wept
abundantly. He is much changed within two
or three days, but I impute a part of it
to his medicine, & trust there may be
a revival—but I repeat it—there is no time
to be lost.
New Haven Aug
25 1828 Gentlemen,
In all human
probability, our excellent Friend M r
Ashmun will before this reaches you, be in
the eternal world. On my arrival last
night at twelve oclock, I learnt with the
most painful concern, that he might, very
probably, be taken from us before morning,
and hastened to his chamber. My arrival
was announced to him, & he had time to
prepare to receive me with composure. He
pressed my hand with perfect calmness,
begged me to repress my feelings, saying
that he had made a great effort to subdue
his own. He conversed for some minutes in
a very pious & affecting manner,
saying that he would defer any
instructions which he might wish to give
concerning his affairs until tomorrow.
But he is
sinking rapidly, nor shall I be surprized,
if he expires before morning. He has
exerted himself much to give some
direction concerning his pecuniary
affairs, but I fear his strength will not
permit him, (particularly, as he wishes
much for some information from Mr Hawley
who is expected) perfectly to arrange
them. As he has taught us how to live, he
is now teaching us how to die. Nothing can
exceed his patience, his submission, his
holy magnanimity of soul. The chamber
where he meets his fate, is indeed
privileged, quite on the verge of Heaven.
I have just
told Mr Ashmun that I am writing to you,
& he wishes me to say "that he has no
hope of recovery, but that he most
affectionately remembers you." A few
minutes ago he offered up a most solemn
& pathetic prayer, imploring grace to
sustain him in his distress, & a
blessing upon his friends, & upon that
"poor people" among whom he had laboured.
But I must close. In view of the sublime
example of Christian Faith before me I
must say "Let me die the death of the
righteous & let my last end be like
With the most
respectful & affectionate regard,
R R Gurley
New Haven Aug
forebodings are realized. Mr Ashmun
expired, at twelve last night, gently
& quietly as an infant sinks to rest.
I write announcing this fact to Messrs
Gales & Seaton, by this mail, &
have now only time to say, that the
excellency of his life, was surpassed (if
this is possible) by the sublimity of his
death. His funeral will take place
tomorrow at 4 oclock & a sermon be
preached by the Rev Mr Bacon.
R R Gurley
New York Sep
1st 1828 Gentlemen,
The Rev Mr
Hawley & myself (Mr Hawley having
reached N Haven ignorant of the Death of
Mr Ashmun until just before his arrival on
friday evening) came into this City,
accompanied by Mrs Ashmun, early yesterday
circumstances attending the Funeral of Mr
Ashmun were of the most affecting
character. Mr Ashmun had on landing at N
Haven informed his Parents of his purpose
to visit Saratoga, & his Father
immediately left his home at Champlain N
Y, that he might meet him at the Springs.
later Mr Ashmun's Mother learnt that her
son was rapidly sinking, & that no
time was to be lost. She took the
steamboat on Sunday night, &
travelling without delay alone four
hundred miles arrived at New Haven, while
the Congregation were assembled to hear
the funeral sermon of her son. The
effect of her presence can hardly be
described. It was thought imprudent
& indeed dangerous to uncover the
corpse, & she never looked upon his
features, though she had not seen him for
loss is irreparable, I trust the
impression which his death has made in
favour of our Cause will not soon be
effaced. Mr. Bacon's sermon was
excellent, & will immediately be
published. No individual probably,
ever enlisted more deeply the feelings of
the Citizens of New Haven, or received
more sincere or general expressions of
respect & affection.
I hope to be
with you in two or three days.
R R Gurley
DEATH OF ASHMUN
Lydia Huntley Sigourney
Whose is yon sable bier?
Why move the throng so slow?
Why doth that lonely mother's tear
In sudden anguish flow?
Why is that sleeper laid
To rest in manhood's pride?
How gained his cheeks such pallid shade?
I spake,—but none replied.
The hoarse wave murmur'd low,
surges roar'd ;— And o'er the sea in tones of
response was poured; I heard sad Africa mourn
billowy strand:— A shield was from her bosom
torn, An anchor from her hand.
Ah ! well I know thee now,
foreign suns would trace Deep lines of death
upon thy brow,
Thou friend of
misery's race; — Their leader when the blast
Of ruthless war swept by,
teacher when the storm was past, Their guide to
worlds on high.
Spirit of Power, —pass on !‑
Thy homeward wing is free ;—
not claim thee for her son, She hash no chain
for thee ;—
Toil might not bow thee down,—
Nor Sorrow check thy race,—
Pleasure win thy birthright crown,—Go to thy own
blest place !