John W. Hutchinson, the thirteenth of the sixteen children of Jesse and Mary Leavitt Hutchinson, was born Jan. 4, 1821, and for many years led the life incident to all farmers' boys of New Hampshire. His musical genius was developed at a very early age. Before he could read the staff he could sing his part correctly, and at the age of seven he could manage any of the simple tunes then in vogue.
He was second in the renowned quartette made up of Judson, John, Asa, and Abby. Judson was four years his senior, Asa was younger by two years, and Abby by eight years.
Outside of the quartette several members of the family acquired reputation as public singers, but whenever the Hutchinson family is spoken of in the vicinity of their birthplace, it is understood reference is made to the three brothers and one sister who made the quartette. The sketch of the family upon other pages of this volume, together with the elaborate history of the family by John W. Hutchinson, in two volumes, furnishes all obtainable information needed to a correct understanding of the musical career of this talented family.
John W. seems at all times and in all places to accord to Jesse a higher degree of genius than that possessed by other members of the family. But in the opinion of those who have known the family for half a century, or more, there seems to be a general assent to the statement that no one of the family, from the beginning to the end, has contributed so much to its name and its fame as John W. Bold, ambitious, and inflexible, there could be but one result to anything of which he was a promoter. He was, and is, a natural leader. Radical in many things, progressive in all, he has never found himself without [p. 488] that conservatism which has enabled him to live a successful life from whatever point the observation is taken. As an investor in real estate in his native town, as one of the founders of the town of Hutchinson in Minnesota, as the owner and developer of the estate in Lynn, known as High Rock, he has manifested the qualities of a successful business man.
Mr. Hutchinson married, Feb. 21, 1843, Fannie B. Patch of Lowell, Mass., a woman of musical ability of the highest order, often taking part in her husband's concerts. To them three children were born,--Henry J., Viola, and Judson Whittier, all vocalists. After the death of Judson the "Tribe of John" was organized within his own family. Henry and Viola won laurels as they joined with their parents in hundreds if not thousands of successful concerts. The "Tribe of John" never forgot that they had a mission. They continued to press home to the hearts of the people, "Oh! Liberate the Bondman." For two years Mr. Hutchinson traveled with his family through New England with horse and carriage, rejoicing the hearts of the faithful.
There was no more devoted or effective worker for the election of Abraham Lincoln than Mr. Hutchinson. He had the pleasure of signing to him when, as president-elect, he passed through New York, and was present at his inauguration. When war came Mr. Hutchinson was at the post of duty. He visited the recruiting stations, and, by speech and song, encouraged and inspired both officers and privates. After the terrible repulse of the Union troops at Bull Run, Mr. Hutchinson, with his son and daughter, visited Washington, and, after a series of concerts, was invited to go to Virginia and sing to the troops. Obtaining an appointment from Secretary Cameron, he entered at once upon this service. At the first concert, at Fairfax Seminary, their allusions to slavery were received with hisses, and a turbulent scene ensued. The offensive words were in the newly-written poem by Whittier, which Mr. Hutchinson had wedded to music as inspiring,--
With the word "slavery" came a hiss. The office in command declared this act an insult alike to the singers and the "old flag," and if the hiss was repeated the disturber should leave the church. A young surgeon from New Jersey arose and said: "You had better commence on me." The major replied, "I can put you out myself, and if I fail, I have a regiment that can and will." Thereupon the two thousand soldiers arose en masse, and the shout "Put him out! [p. 489] put him out!" was heard in all directions. The audience was soon quieted, and the concert proceeded to the close without further interruption. The affair was brought to the notice of General McClellan. An order was issued expelling the "Hutchinson family" from the lines. Mr. Hutchinson did not silently submit to this act of arbitrary tyranny, and appealed to the president. Salmon P. Chase read the "obnoxious" song at the next cabinet meeting. The president said, "It is just the character of song I desire the soldiers to hear," and re-instated Mr. Hutchinson. The Hutchinsons were always active in the temperance cause. From 1841, when they sang "King Alcohol" in old Deacon Gile's distillery, in Salem, one or more temperance songs have been included in their programme. At the close of the war Mr. Hutchinsons secured Cooper Institute, in New York, and, associating with him several notable workers, inaugurated a series of popular "Sunday Evening Union Temperance Meetings." These were continued for several years, and effected a revival of the temperance cause. Mr. Hutchinsons's services were sought by the state organizations, and he conducted fully a thousand temperance coventions under their auspices.
Since the close of the war, which resulted in the abolition of human slavery, Mr. Hutchinson has continued his good work in the temperance cause, working in season and out of season to rid his country of the curse of intoxicating drink. He has also been known as an ardent worker for the enlargement of the sphere of woman. In fact, it would be difficult to name any worthy cause which has not found in him an ardent and successful advocate. A careful perusal of his history of the Hutchinson family will show how fully his life has been filled with work, and how few months have passed when he has not appeared in public either as a concert giver or to aid some meritorious cause. Within a few days from the date of writing this sketch, Dec. 9, 1899, this gifted singer and reformer will pass into his eightieth year. He has survived not only his father and mother, brothers and sisters, but his wife and children with the exception of his daughter Viola, who, with her family, makes her home with her father at High Rock, Lynn. To-day his eye is not dim, and his voice retains in a very high degree the characteristics which it had sixty years ago.
To few men has it been given to face so large a number of popular audiences; few men have had so wide an acquaintance with prominent men in this and other lands, and it must stand as a great credit to the subject of this sketch that notwithstanding he has been the recipient of applause to a degree vouchsafed to few if any of his fellow-men, it has not seemed to turn his head or cause him to relax his efforts in any of the causes he has so long had at heart.
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