From the Papers: Lynn on the Fourth of July

July 11, 2022


Portrait: Mary Baker Eddy, W. G. Bowers. c. 1871, P00016. Lithograph: Songs of the Hutchinson Family. G. and W. Endicott Lithography, active c. 1841 – c. 1849, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. Map: Home of the Hutchinson Family, High Rock, Lynn, Mass., U.S.A. Boston, Armstrong & Co. Lith, 1881. Library of Congress.

During the United States Civil War, Fourth of July celebrations in the North were, according to Mary Baker Eddy, “a beacon-light for the tempest-tossed Union ship to hail.” They gave people an opportunity to come together, give thanks, and celebrate an “anniversary of which we love and cannot forget.”1

On July 4, 1864, Eddy attended a concert in Lynn, Massachusetts, given by the “Tribe of Asa,” which was led by musician Asa B. Hutchinson. He was a former member of The Hutchinson Family, a group of folk singers who had been very popular in the 1840s and 1850s. The concert was held at their family compound on High Rock in Lynn. On a hill 170 feet above the city, concertgoers enjoyed the Hutchinson performance, as well as fireworks, at the celebrations down below.2

The Hutchinsons had been national celebrities from the time Eddy was in her early 20s, and they lived in Lynn when she did. She reviewed the concert for the Lynn Weekly Reporter and composed an undated poem titled “Home on High Rock,” which is transcribed and annotated on the Mary Baker Eddy Papers website. Written to Asa and his wife, Elizabeth, it refers to her time with the Hutchinsons at High Rock. It is not clear if the stanzas refer simply to a concert, or a closer relationship to the family that has not yet come to light:

Tis sweet to remember those soft summer hours,
The mystery of waters, the fragrance and flowers,
And how the heart sighed as we gazed o’er the strand —
“The Rock be my refuge in this weary land.”

And sweet to remember the strong, kindly face,
The cottage, the pear trees, and womanly grace,
But spire and city in tree tops all set,
In dreams we can never, O, never forget!3

The Hutchinsons—a quartet of the siblings Judson, Asa, John, and Abby—were originally from the town of Milford in New Hampshire, Eddy’s home state. Jesse Hutchinson wrote The Hutchinson Family’s signature song, “The Old Granite State,” in 1843. The family included 10 brothers and two sisters.4 They began giving concerts in 1841, performing traditional American music. Inspired by the day’s politics, they started writing original abolitionist and temperance lyrics, paired with familiar tunes. This fueled their success.

One of the best-known songs was the 1844 title “Get off the Tracks,” which advocated emancipation. This may help to explain Eddy’s affinity with the band; by the time she attended the Independence Day concert at High Rock, she was active in a temperance group and writing in favor of slavery’s abolition. She was in general accord with the singers’ advocacy of women’s suffrage, as she would demonstrate by including references to that subject in the first edition of her book Science and Health, published in 1875.

The Hutchinsons toured the United States and Europe. Abby left in 1849, at the height of their fame, when she married the wealthy businessman Ludlow Patton of New York City.5 The remaining trio performed together until 1855, when they split into their own “tribes,” including the Tribe of Asa, which performed at High Rock that evening in 1864.6

Judson, Asa, and John had first moved to Lynn in 1841, following two older brothers. They returned in 1855, when The Hutchinson Family disbanded. This demise coincided with a deterioration in the brothers’ relationship; John and Asa continued performing with their own tribes.7

The Independence Day concert that Eddy attended and reported on represented a reunion of sorts, with Abby Hutchinson Patton performing with the Tribe of Asa. The concert consisted “chiefly of pathetic war-songs and eulogies, together with some very comical pieces.” In her review of the concert, Eddy noted that Abby “sang with melting tenderness,” but that the star of the show was Asa’s son O. Dennett Hutchinson, who “sung and acted with inimitable skill” in a comedy sketch that she particularly enjoyed, about Confederate leader Jefferson Davis. The group also sang “Nearer My God, to Thee,” one of Eddy’s favorite hymns.8

The Tribe of Asa lived in Lynn until the early 1870s, when their focus shifted to Hutchinson, Minnesota—a settlement that Judson, John, and Asa had founded in 1855. They planned to build “Humanity’s Church” there, in a place where “woman shall enjoy equal rights with man.”9 Asa, however, was the only brother who actually moved to Hutchinson.

If you’re interested in reading more about Eddy’s life in Lynn, visit the Mary Baker Eddy Papers website to read correspondence from her time spent living there, including the overview essay of 1872–1880.

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  1. M.M.P, “The High Rock Concert,” Lynn Weekly Reporter, 9 July 1864.
  2. Today High Rock Tower Reservation is a city park.
  3. Mary Baker Eddy, “Home on High Rock”, n.d., A11385, A much earlier composition by Eddy, “In Spirit I Am With Thee, Friends,” was published in New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette, 5 March 1846. Published 17 years before Eddy lived in Lynn, it included these lines:

    Anon with thee.
    To High Rock I flee,
    Climbing its summit well nigh to the moon;
    Clouds for a pillow,
    Far music a billow,
    I’d revel forever in beauties of Lynn.
    M.M.G. [Mary Morse Glover], “In Spirit I Am With Thee, Friends,” New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette, 5 March 1846, 4. A11462.

  4. Anders Morley, “The Famous NH Family You’ve Never Heard Of (Probably),” New Hampshire Magazine, 18 July 2016, accessed 5 July 2022.
  5. Ibid, 225–227.
  6. Scott Gac, Singing for Freedom: The Hutchinson Family Singers and the Nineteenth-Century Culture of Antebellum Reform (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007), 4–6.
  7. Ibid, 236.
  8. M.M.P, “The High Rock Concert,” Lynn Weekly Reporter, 9 July 1864.
  9. Gac, Singing for Freedom, 236.