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My Brother Bob

Illustration from Mrs. Partington's Carpet Bag of Fun /

In this rare guest essay, BP Shillaber tells the story of his brother who lived by the North Mill Pond. Brave, simple, hardworking, brother Bob never lied, but often cursed. He risked his life to save a drowning boy, never struck his children, and sued the railroad when it crossed his land.




EDITOR'S NOTE: BP Shillaber was brought up on the NOrth Mill Pond are of Portsmouth. Shillaber went on to fame in Boston, and this reminiscence was printed in the Portsmouth Journal by editor CW Brewster. This article includes his opinions and may not reflect current research or current values. From Brewster’s Rambles About Portsmouth, 1869 exclusively on – JDR

THE genuine truthfulness of the following story, from the genial pen of our old townsman, B. P. Shillaber, Esq., as well as its lively account of no less a character than Commodore Mifflin or Toppin Maxwell, induces us to give it as one of the Rambles. Like the two above named, "My Brother Bob" had his home on the South shore of the North Mill Pond. – CW BRewster

READ MORE on BP Shillaber

Rambles logo/ SeacoastNH.comIt was the remark of a distinguished orator who once discoursed about the Father of his Country, that "G. Washington was not a loud boy." I may, with some propriety, apply the same remark to my brother Bob. He is not a "loud boy," in the sense wherein the term loud might be supposed to apply. He does not stand at the street corners and brawl, to the disturbance of neighborhoods; he has no particular fancy for the boisterous; but he is a quiet man, full of good sense, practical to a fault, honest, plain spoken, industrious, prudent. He possesses very little of the ornate or ornamental, and yet he attracts by qualities the opposite of those which usually control. A hardy, gnarled, rough man, yet he is respected more for his integrity of character, and the qualities enumerated, than hundreds who wear far better clothes and make more pretension to refinement. Bob is not an Adonis, for personal grace is not a quality much to be vaunted of in our family, compensation being found in those excellences which the best people discern.

An Odd Character and a Hero

My brother Bob is a character, and from the point to which my memory recurs, he has maintained the same position in the estimation of the people as now. It will not do to call him an old man yet; and though years have severely tussled with him, and taken a little away from his elasticity, it has added to his wisdom, and less mpulsiveness characterizes his speech and actions. For instance, he would scarcely now do as he did years ago, when the little boy was drowned in the pond near which he lived: -- throw his clothes off piece by piece as he ran to the rescue, and almost naked venture among the

crackling and brittle ice, breaking beneath his every moment, in his humane endeavor. That half hour of fruitless effort, in the eyes of the assembled town, covered him with glory -- the only covering he had, until his clothes were brought him, and he had made his toilet on the hard-set ice, within a few yards from where the poor boy met his fate.

Neither would he do as he did at the time the boys got upset in the boat, when with no other means of rescue than a half-hogshead tub, he gallantly pushed from the shore to aid them. With a bold spirit, actuated by the warmest feelings, Bob had no thought of danger or reward, though he sometimes found compensation in shaking those whom he benefitted for the trouble they had caused him; and there were frequent opportunites.

He was always a favorite of the boys, and his boat on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons was an object of great competition, for he had a water privilege then on the pond, which a railroad many years since cut off, leaving Bob minus a small income, and a prospective suit against the corporation, in case they refuse to compensate. I can recall many instances of juvenile charter parties for navigation upon the North Mill Pond at such times, and Bob was as well pleased in their sport as though he were not to receive the dime, or less, in payment. Grave and busy men, often, in referring to those times, make mention of that dear delightful sail upon the little pond, then,however, larger considerably than the Atlantic, and speak of Bob in the kindliest spirit of remembrance, recalling him by some amusing anecdote that gave a zest to the good old time.

But there were times when he would swear like a tornado, if such expression may be employed, when juvenile depredators attempted to overreach him; and it has been said that in his earlier days there was more profanity in him to the square inch than in any one around. This, however, has changed for the subdued temper that years bring with them, and but moderate scope is allowed for passion.


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