the Thoreau Log.
1817-1832
Æt. 0 - 15.
12 July 1817. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau is born in a farmhouse on Virginia Road (Journal, 8:64).
Thoreau’s birthplace is now a museum listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Visit thoreaufarm.org for more information.
DAWES_018_Hosmer Thoreau Birthplace
Thoreau Birthplace (Photographer: Alfred W. Hosmer) (The Lewis C. Dawes Collection).
12 October 1817. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau is baptized David Henry by Rev. Ezra Ripley: “Oct. 12 Thoreau, David Henry; s. of Cynthia wife of John” (First Parish in Concord records. Special Collections, Concord (Mass.) Free Public Library).
Thoreau writes in his journal on 27 December 1855: “Uncle David died when I was six weeks old. I was baptized in old M.H. by Dr. Ripley, when I was three months, and did not cry” (Journal, 8:64).
September 1818. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau is taught to walk by his paternal aunt Sarah (The Days of Henry Thoreau, 11; Journal, 8:65).

16 October 1818. Chelmsford, Mass.
Thoreau family moves from Concord to the Proctor house next to the church in Chelmsford (The Days of Henry Thoreau, 11-12). They live there until about April 1821 (Journal, 8:65).
In a journal entry of 7 January 1856, Thoreau recalls some events at the house:
They tell how I swung on a gown [?] on the stairway when I was at Chelmsford. The gown [?] gave way; I fell and fainted, and it took two pails of water to bring me to, for I was remarkable for holding my breath in those cases.
  Mother tried to milk the cow which Father took on trial, but she kicked at her and spilt the milk. (They say a dog had bitten her teats.) Proctor laughed at her as a city girl, and then he tried, but the cow kicked him over, and he finished by beating her with his cowhide shoe. Captain Richardson milked her warily, standing up. Father came home, and thought he would brustle right up to her for she needed much to be milked, but suddenly she lifted her leg and struck him fair and square right in the muns, knocked him flat, and broke the bridge of his nose, which shows it yet. He distinctly heard her hoof rattle on his nose. This started the claret, and, without stanching the blood, he at once drove her home to the man he had her of. She ran at some young women by the way, who saved themselves by getting over the wall in haste.
  Father complained of the powder in the meetinghouse garret at town meeting, but it did not get moved while we lived there. Here he painted over his old signs for guide-boards, and got a fall when painting Hale’s (?) factory. Here the bladder John was playing with burst on the hearth. The cow came into the entry after pumpkins. I cut my toe, and was knocked over by a hen with chickens, etc., etc.
(Journal, 8:93-4)
William Ellery Channing recalls hearing stories of the Thoreaus’ time in Chelmsford from Thoreau’s mother:
… being complained of for taking a knife belonging to another boy, Henry said, I did not take it, and was believed. In a few days the culprit was found out. He then said,I knew all the time who it was. The day it was taken I went to Newton with father. Why did you not say so at the time I did not take it was the reply. At the earlier age of three, being told that he must die, like the men in the catechism, he said, as he came in from coasting, that he did not want to die and go to Heaven, if he could not take his sled with him; the boys said it was not worth a cent, because it was not shod with iron.
(Thoreau, the Poet-Naturalist, 18-19)
10 November 1818. Chelmsford, Mass.
Thoreau’s father rents the Spaulding store (Journal, 8:65; The Days of Henry Thoreau, 11-12). He is aided by a recommendation from Rev. Ezra Ripley:
Understanding that Mr. John Thoreau, now of Chelmsford, is going into business at that place, and is about to apply for license to retail ardent spirits, I hereby certify that I have been long acquainted with him, that he has sustained a good character, and now view him as a man of integrity, accustomed to storekeeping, and of correct morals.
(The Life of Henry David Thoreau, 33)
15 November 1818. Chelmsford, Mass.
Thoreau’s father opens a grocery in the Spaulding store (Journal, 8:65; The Life of Henry David Thoreau, 33; The Days of Henry Thoreau, 11-12).
12 June 1819. Chelmsford, Mass.
Thoreau's sister Sophia is born. (The Days of Henry Thoreau, 12).
21 March 1821. Chelmsford, Mass.
Thoreau's father's grocery folds (The Life of Henry Thoreau, 34).
April or May 1821. Boston, Mass.
The Thoreau family moves to “Pope’s House“ in Boston’s South End after a short stay in Concord (Journal, 8:65).
10 September 1821. Boston, Mass.
The Thoreau family moves to “Whitwells’ House” at 4 Pinckney Street. They live there until about March 1823 (Journal, 8:65; Boston Directory for 1822, 229).
1822. Walden Pond.
Thoreau recalls, in an August 1845 journal entry, his first visit to Walden Pond:
Twenty-three years since, when I was five years old, I was brought from Boston to this pond, away in the country,—which was then but another name for the extended world for me,—one of the most ancient scenes stamped on the tablets of memory, the oriental Asiatic valley of my world, whence so many races and inventions have gone forth in recent times. That woodland vision for a long time made the drapery of my dreams.
(Journal, 1:380-1)
1822. Boston, Mass.
Thoreau starts school (The Life of Henry David Thoreau, 35).
March 1823. Concord Mass.
The Thoreau family moves to the Josiah Jones house, a brick house on the corner of Walden Road and Main Street, after Thoreau’s maternal uncle, Charles, had discovered a graphite mine nearby and asked Thoreau’s father to join the business of manufacturing pencils (Journal, 8:65; The Days of Henry Thoreau, 16; The Life of Henry David Thoreau, 36). Thoreau recalls, in a journal entry dated 7 January 1856, some events at this house:
Mother tells how, at the brick house, we each had a little garden a few feet square, and I came in one day, having found a potato just sprouted, which by her advice I planted in my garden. Ere long John came in with a potato which he had found and had it planted in his garden,—“Oh, mother, I have found a potato all sprouted. I mean to put it in my garden,” etc. Even Helen is said to have found one. But next I came crying that somebody had got my potato, etc., etc., but it was restored to me as the youngest and original discoverer, if not inventor, of the potato, and it grew in my garden, and finally its crop was dug by myself and yielded a dinner for the family.
  I was kicked down by a passing ox. Had a chicken given me by Lidy—Hannah—and peeped through the keyhole at it. Caught an eel with John. Went to bed with new boots on, and after with cap. “Rasselas” given me, etc., etc. Asked P. [Phebe] Wheeler, “Who owns all the land?” Asked Mother, having got the medal for geography, “Is Boston in Concord?” If I had gone to Miss Wheeler a little longer, should have received the chief prize book, “Henry Lord Mayor,” etc., etc.
(Journal, 8:94-5)
Summer/Early Fall 1823. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau and his brother John attend Phebe Wheeler’s girls’ school because the town primary school had closed for the term (The Life of Henry David Thoreau, 39).
Spring 1826. Concord, Mass.
The Thoreau family moves from the “Brick House” to the “Davis’s House” on Main Street in Concord, next to the home of Samuel Hoar. They stay there until 7 May 1827 (Journal, 8:65; The Life of Henry David Thoreau, 36).
7 May 1827. Concord, Mass.
The Thoreau family moves from the “Davis’s House” to the “Shattuck House” across the street. They stay there until spring 1835 (Journal, 8:65).
December 1828. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau is enrolled in the Concord Academy and its preceptor, Phineas Allen, boards at the Thoreaus’ around this time (The Days of Henry Thoreau, 26; New England Quarterly 21 (March 1948):104; Emerson Society Quarterly 9 (4th quarter 1957):3).
Thoreau writes an essay, probably related to his schooling, in this year or 1829:
   THE SEASONS
   Why do the seasons change? and why
   Does Winter’s stormy brow appear?
   Is it the word of him on high
   Who rules the changing, varied year.
There are four Seasons in a year, Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter, I will begin with Spring. Now we see the ice beginning to thaw, and the trees to bud. Now the winter wears away, and the ground begins to look green with the new born grass. The birds which have lately been to more southern countries return again to cheer us with their morning song.
  Next comes Summer. Now we see a beautiful sight. The trees and flowers are in bloom. Now is the pleasantest part of the year. Now the fruit begins to form on the trees, and all things look beautiful.
  In Autumn we see the trees loaded with fruit. Now the farmers begin to lay in their Winter’s store, and the markets abound with fruit. The trees are partly stripped of their leaves. The birds which visited us in Spring are now retiring to warmer countries, as they know that Winter is coming.
  Next comes Winter. Now we see the ground covered with snow, and the trees are bare. The cold is so intense that the rivers and brooks are frozen.
  There is nothing to be seen. We have no birds to cheer us with their morning song. We hear only the sound of the sleigh bells.
(The Days of Henry Thoreau, 27; The Life of Henry David Thoreau, 51-2)
7 January 1829. Concord, Mass.
The Concord Lyceum is established by Josiah Holbrook. Thoreau attends meetings intermittently (Thoreau, 33; Thoreau Society Bulletin 30 (January 1950):2-3).
25 February 1829. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau ends his first quarter of instruction at the Concord Academy. It is probable that Thoreau gave his first “declamation” on “The Death of Leonidas” about this time. Preceptor Allen noted that it was good (New England Quarterly 21 (March 1948):104-5; The Days of Henry Thoreau, 27-8).
9 October 1829. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau attends a meeting of the Concord Academy Debating Society. The minutes state:
After declamations from all the members, twelve-year-old Henry Thoreau (affirmative) and E. R. Hoar (negative) debated: “Does it require more talents to make a good writer than a good extemporaneous speaker?” The debate was not very animated… on account of some misunderstanding in the question. The President decided in the Negative, and… his decision was confirmed by a majority of four.
(Emerson Society Quarterly 9 (4th quarter 1957):6)
5 November 1829. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau attends a meeting of the Concord Academy Debating Society. The minutes, signed by secretary George Moore, state:
Part of the members recited pieces. Edward Wright (affirmative) and Henry Thoreau (negative) were called to discuss: “Is a good memory preferable to a good understanding in order to be a distinguished scholar at school?” The affirmative disputant through negligence, had prepared nothing for debate, and the negative not much more. Accordingly, no other member speaking, the President decided in the Neg. His decision was confirmed by a majority of four. Such a debate, if it may be called so, as we have had, this evening, I hope never again will be witnessed in this house or recorded in this book. It is not only a waste of time, but of paper to record such proceedings, of wood and oil.
(Emerson Society Quarterly 9 (4th quarter 1957):6)
George Moore writes in his journal: “Attended the meeting of the club at the Academy, but not a very pleasant one, as the regular disputants had not prepared themselves to speak” (Ibid.).
17 December 1829. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau is chosen to act as secretary pro-tem at a meeting of the Concord Academy Debating Society. The minutes state:
The Secretary being absent, Henry Thoreau was chosen Sec. pro. tem. and he neglecting to perform his duty by recording the proceedings, it falls to the lot of the Sec. to record, by hearsay, what was done. The Society came together at the usual time, and the question selected last evening, “Do children imitate, imbibe or adopt virtues as soon as vices?” was taken up by the disputants, and left to be discussed again and decided at some future time.
(Emerson Society Quarterly 9 (4th quarter 1957):7-8)
24 December 1829. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau attends a meeting of the Concord Academy Debating Society. The minutes state:
After declamations, Edward Wright (affirmative) and Henry Thoreau (negative) with E. R. Hoar supporting Wright and J. G. Davis & George Moore supporting Thoreau, debated: “Ought lotteries to be granted for any use?” The debate was rather long, and the negative won.
(Emerson Society Quarterly 9 (4th quarter 1957):8)
1830. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau’s maternal aunt, Louisa, moves in with the Thoreaus (The Days of Henry Thoreau, 21; Thoreau, 22).
9 March 1830. Concord, Mass.
A party is held at the Thoreau house. George Moore notes in his journal, “Tuesday… Was invited out to a party, this evening, at Mr. Thoreau’s, but did not attend” (The Transcendentalist and Minerva, 2:457-9).
10 January 1831. Concord, Mass.
George Moore writes in his journal: “Monday evening, attended a party at Mr. Thoreau’s, and had a very good time” (The Transcendentalists and Minerva, 2:459-60).
1 August 1831. Concord, Mass.
George Moore writes in his journal: “Monday evening, Aug. 1. Attended a Teacher’s Meeting at Mr. Thoreau’s, and a very pleasant one it was, too, with the exception of a few mosquito bites” (The Transcendentalists and Minerva, 2:460).



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