July 12, 2010

Birth of Henry David Thoreau

In a small farmhouse well outside the center of the village of Concord (pictured at left), on July 12, 1817, David Henry Thoreau was born. The town had 2,000 people then and Boston was just under 20 miles away - a four hour ride by stage coach. Years later, the boy (the third of four children) swapped his first and middle names. Today, he is best known to history as Henry David Thoreau.

The family was never particularly well-off and often struggled financially. The boy's father was a storekeeper, later to manufacture pencils with the help of his son. His mother was a talker, always willing to speak her mind, even about political issues. Because of her anti-slavery views, for example, the family later housed fugitive slaves en route to Canada. Perhaps most importantly, Mr. and Mrs. Thoreau loved nature and tried to take time to walk together. A friend later noted that Thoreau's own love of nature was inherited from his parents.

The family moved around often but, as an adult, Thoreau noted his permanent connection to Concord, calling it "the most estimable place in the world."

The family left the home when young Thoreau was about a year old. In more recent history, the building was scheduled for demolition. In the 1990s, however, a community organization saved the property and now, as of 2010, the site of Thoreau's birth is now open to the public for the first time in history. Though its open hours are relatively limited, the journey is worth the effort (only two turns past the Orchard House and The Wayside). What makes this property unique is that Thoreau was the only Concord author (unlike Emerson, Hawthorne, and the two Alcotts) actually born in that town.

*Much of the information on Thoreau's birth and family comes from Milton Meltzer's Henry David Thoreau: A Biography.

1 comment:

  1. So glad to see all the acknowledgment out here of this newly preserved home.I am extactically happy the way it has been preserved and utilized. Will see soon! We need to support & contribute to our American Heritage and History in every way.Include in your readings of these providential times, places and people...'The Thoreau You Don't Know', 'Hawthorne in Concord' and 'March'(novel);all so informative and entertaining! Thank you R.Vellela