Growing up in Andover, Harriette Newell Woods Baker counted among her acquaintances the Stuart family, whose father (Moses Stuart), like hers, taught at Andover. This sketch by Elizabeth Stuart Phelps's younger sister provides an affectionate glimpse of Baker's father and of life at Andover.


No one of the Andover professors was a more distinct personality for us children than Dr. Leonard Woods. To this result there contributed in different degrees his handsome presence, his dark repute as a theologian, and his benignity towards us all.

The dwelling-house which he built shortly after coming to Andover was in strict keeping with the character of the man. It was a large, three-story house, plain even to the lack of blinds to shield its many windows, but with ample and convenient rooms, and closets large enough to serve us children as so many baby-houses. In this house he lived from the day of its completion to the day of his death; and here a large family of sons and daughters grew up to maturity.

Writing of her father to me, one of his daughters says:

" You well know my father's geniality and blandness, his great tenderness as a husband and father. I don't think I ever heard him speak of Sarah [a daughter who died young] without tears in his eyes. And you know of his unsurpassed tenderness to our mother in the ten years of her sickness, of the wagon he had made in which to draw her up and down beneath the elms, and how he used to put it on runners in the winter. Sometimes your father used to come in and ask, 'Where's Brother Woods?' When told he was drawing mother, he would go off without another word, and, joining them, would take hold and help draw, while they discussed, I dare say, some knotty point in theology. We used to congratulate mother on her illustrious team.

" I remember how I used to break down on going away to school in very abandonment of sorrow; but my tears would flow afresh when I caught sight of father's quivering lip. I knew with a moral certainty that as soon as I had left he would go into the study and pray for me. And then his beaming face and outstretched arms on my return! Oh, how vividly does it all come before me! Every child he had remembers all this."

There can be no more beautiful picture than this of Dr. Woods drawing his invalid wife in that chair-wagon. A stalwart, handsome man, preoccupied moreover by the nature and demands of his profession, he might have been supposed by a stranger to be lifted out from the world of small kindnesses and loving tendernesses; but, in truth, no one was here so thoroughly at home. Wrapping the shawls around his little, pale wife so that no wind from the bleak Andover heavens could visit her too roughly, and seating her carefully and easily in the cushioned chair, he drew her over the graveled sidewalks with a minute attention to the spots upon which the wheels could run most smoothly. When the day was hot, he sought the deepest shadows thrown by the large elms. He passed the yards where the flowers were the brightest, or the lawns best kept, stopping now and then to exchange a word of greeting with a friend, or to do an errand that would interest and amuse the invalid.

Writing of him in his domestic character, an old pupil says:

" During the whole of my acquaintance with him, -- as one who enjoyed the privilege of occupying a room in his own dwelling-house for the three years of my course in the Seminary, -- the loveliness and faithfulness of his character in this respect was continually developed, and excited my admiration and esteem. He was a most affectionate and faithful husband and father. I have seen him in times of domestic affliction and trial; and when I think of him as he appeared then, I am reminded of what my imagination pictures to me of Abraham himself, walking forth with Isaac, or buying of the sons of Heth a burial place for his beloved Sarah. He had much of the dignity and the tenderness in his dignity of the ancient patriarch." [1]

The last days of his life were peaceful, and filled with the faithful work which even the growing infirmities of years did not tempt him to discontinue. If there had come across his vision a glimpse into the troubled future awaiting his beloved Seminary, this holy calm would doubtless have given place to deep anxieties and forebodings; but, fortunately for him, he went home while from the old pulpit there had been uttered no heretical discourses, while Westminster Shorter Catechism still held its revered place by the side of the words of Holy Writ, while second probation was a thing undreamed of, and a trial of a member of the faculty for heresy as impossible to anticipate as the burning of one of them at the stake for too close an adherence to the old theology. He was an old man when he died; and he was buried in the hallowed cemetery behind the chapel which he had loved, and in which he had taught and preached for so many long years.

[1] Dr. Blagdon: "Semi-Centennial Celebration," Andover, 1859, p. 188 f.

Sarah Stuart Robbins, Old Andover Days: Memories of a Puritan Childhood.
Boston: The Pilgrim Press, 1908: 142-48.

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Copyright 2004 by Deidre Johnson. Please do not reproduce on other sites without permission.