Abby Allin Curtiss
Abby Allin Curtis (1820-1860) was one of Wisconsin’s early poets, author of Home Ballads. She contributed to the Boston Journal under the pseudonym “Nills.” Born in Pomfret, Connecticut, she was the wife of Colonel Daniel S. Curtiss, a reporter and editor of the Oconomowoc Free Press, and is buried in Madison’s Forest Hill Cemetery. She wrote the following poem, published in the Western Fireside newspaper, to honor the first old settler’s reunion held in Madison in June 1857.
All honor to the gallant band
Of sturdy Pioneers,
Well may this State House dome resound,
Re-echoing to our cheers!
They felled the tree, they hewed the stone,
And upward, rock on rock,
With steady care and earnest zeal,
They piled them block by block!
No railroads then, to aid either work.
But slow, o’er hill and plain,
Urged both by whip and teamster’s shout,
Crept in the loaded wain;
A solitude on either side,
Save where the campfires gleam,
Or Indian’s wigwam found a place
Beside some running stream.
There brave old woods and prairies wide,
Bloomed in their primal state;
The red men tracked them with their trails,
Nor dreamed remorseless fate
Would drive them foot by foot
Resistless as the sea;
That where their hunting grounds are found,
The white man’s home would be.
And now a young and vigorous state,
Resulting from their toil;
Thick set with cities, farms and mills
Cover the fertile soil.
Well may their bosoms glow with pride,
With what their hands have sown;
Van-courier they in freedom’s fields –
We reap what they have sown.
Let us then gather to their side,
And lend the listening ear,
While they recite the wondrous change
Wrought round them year by year.
No craven, carpet-knights are they,
Smooth-spoken, soft and fair –
They’d beard the savage in his den,
The wild beast in his lair!
Honest of purpose, bold of deed;
Let us the lesson learn,
And teach our children too, the mead
That willing hands can earn;
And ere we leave these halls today,
Yield them a round of cheers;
All honor to this gallant band –