Henry Buxton says..
Eben B. Hodgkins of
Former Teacher, Self-Educated, Mastered Spanish at 85.
After spending two intensely interesting hours with
Eben B. Hodgkins, 93, of
At the age of 93 Eben B. Hodgkins is nothing short of a marvel. He is as active physically and mentally as the average man of 50, and his capacity for learning is comparable to that of a bright student just beginning his college career. At the age of 85 he mastered Spanish to the extent that he not only reads and writes the language but speaks it fluently. At 93 he is writing hymns and poems, and making research into astronomy and higher mathematics. He also whittles out ship models and makes house furniture.
I grasped something of this man's genius and versatility as a carver when he showed me replicas of magnified snow flakes, carved in wood. He has reproduced the exquisite lace-like patterns of the flakes with artistic fidelity and understanding.
An amazing thirst for knowledge has inspired
this man since 83 years ago when at the age of 10 he went fishing on his
father's fishing schooner, the pinky
Buying some text books on astronomy, algebra,
arithmetic and geography for two cents a pound at a waste paper junk shop in
Rockland, the boy Hodgkins studied by the uncertain light of a whale oil lamp
during the dull hours of fishing in the Bay of Fundy. Later, he managed to get in a term at the
Bucksport seminary, and another at
FOUGHT FOR EDUCATION
This remarkable man's unquenchable thirst for
knowledge put me in mind of the hardships suffered by
A model carved by Mr. Hodgkins of the
Trenton, he regards almost in the light of a shrine, for it was in the cabin of
that ancient vessel that he worked tirelessly to pick up the rudiments of an
education. And as he told me about it I
could almost see the schooner classroom of the boy Hodgkins at anchor on the
rocking fishing grounds of this
The life of this retired educator, poet, hymn
composer, and carver, provides a fascinating cross section of
Mr. Hodgkins was born
FATHER WAS FISHERMAN
“Father,” said Mr. Hodgkins, “began fishing
“Father had nine children, six girls and
three boys, and I was the oldest of the boys.
I have one brother living, Charles W. Hodgkins of Ellsworth, who is
81. Being the oldest boy, I had to start
to work early to help father, and at the age of 10 I went aboard the
“One day while my father was [at] Lewis wharf
FISHED ON GRAND BANKS
“I made two trips to the
“Other schooners on which I voyaged to the Banks were the E. H. King, skippered by Captain James Bunker and the Irving Leslie, commanded by Captain Haggerty. It was while serving as a hand on the Irving Leslie that I experienced my first bad hurricane. We had just anchored when the hurricane tore down on us, ripped away ou[r] three-cornered trysail, smashed our booby hatch, and stove in three of our [hatches]. The cabin filled up with water, and most of us sought refuge in the rigging. Sea after sea rolled over our decks, and most of the time the storm lasted only our masts were above water. None of us expected to come through the ordeal alive. The storm lasted from Saturday to Monday, when it died out. It was during this same hurricane that the vessel of Captain Door of Bucksport was lost with all hands.
“Another time while we were hove to in a gale under a foresail somebody saw an oar sticking out of the water some distance away. On the crest of the next big sea we saw a dory, and sure enough an oar stood upright in the boat. Lying in the bottom of the boat were two men who belonged to the French trawling fleet. One of them had just strength enough left to hold the oar upright in the home of attracting our attention. They had been adrift four days and nights in the dory without food or water, and their hands were swelled up like boxing gloves. I took charge of them and fed them sparingly, and a few days later we returned them to their vessel.
“At that time 13 vessels owned in Lamoine fished off the
SELF-EDUCATED TEACHER AT 19
“At the age of 18 I put in a term at
Bucksport seminary, and another at the
“At the age of 93 I am still studying,
writing and whittling. I am interested
in anything educational, and if I live to be over a hundred shall never be too
old to learn. I picked up algebra,
geometry and astronomy myself, and in teaching astronomy made many of my own
instruments. I also learned Latin and
French without help from anybody, and at 85 learned to read, write and speak
Spanish. Recently I wrote a four page
letter in Spanish to my nieces in
“I have always been interested in carpentry, cabinet making and carving. At the age of 91 I made all the furniture for my sun-porch, including two couches with 40 spiral springs.”
“To what do you attribute your longevity and mental activity?” I asked.
“I have never used tobacco or rum,” he replied, “nor have I ever danced or gambled. I have faithfully observed every know[n] hygienic law, and I have always been careful about my diet.”
“At 93 how do you view the world today?” I inquired.
“In one way,” he replied, “the world is degenerating, and in another it is showing improvement. We have murders, kidnapping and cruel wars, but on the other hand we have improvement in hygienics, hospitalization and the care of children.”
Mr. Hodgkins has seven living children. They are Miss Susan F. Hodgkins, Eben N.
Hodgkins, Mrs. Florence B. Moore, and James R. Hodgkins, all of