John Reed: The Making of a Revolutionary

By Granville Hicks; John Stuart | Go to book overview

I
BOYHOOD IN PORTLAND

JOHN REED was born, October 20, 1887, in his grandmother's mansion, Cedar Hill, and there was another celebration in a house that had come to be known for its festivities. It was a large house and possibly the most pretentious Portland could boast. Henry D. Green, who had not lived to see the birth of his first grandson, had built it ten years before on a spur of the hills west of Portland, the first of the first citizens to move away from the little cluster of wealthy homes on the flat land near the river. Cedar Hill was the show-place of the city, a real French chateau, people said, with formal gardens, stables, greenhouses, and a glass grape arbor.

The child was christened John Silas in fashionable Trinity Episcopal Church, and, while Mrs. Green entertained her friends and the friends of the father and mother, Lee Sing, her cook, celebrated in his own way in his cellar room. He lit joss sticks, burned paper prayers, and gave a feast of dried shark-fins, seasoned chicken-gizzards, and sam-shui to his Chinese friends. Later that evening his mistress found him alone in the pantry, very drunk, with twelve of her Royal Worcester cups lined up before him, drinking whiskey out of one after the other.

The chateau on Cedar Hill was the outward mark of Henry Green's eminence among the pioneer builders of Portland. He was not quite among the first settlers, for the city had been established in 1845, and the foundations of its first fortunes had been laid in the early fifties by Henry W. Corbett, Henry Failing, William S. Ladd, and Simeon G. Reed. These were the builders of the steamship lines, the banks, and the railroads. But

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