Old Times on the Upper Mississippi: Recollections of a Steamboat Pilot from 1854-1863

By George Byron Merrick | Go to book overview

Chapter XXV
A Stray Nobleman

Of the many men whom it was my good fortune to meet while on the river as a boy, or as a young man, there was none who came nearer to filling the bill as a nobleman than Robert C. Eden, whose memory suggests the title of this chapter. Just what constitutes a nobleman in the college of heraldry, I am not qualified to assert. “Bob” Eden, as his friends fondly called him —Captain Eden, as he was known on the river, or Major Eden as he was better known in the closing days of the War of Secession—was the son of an English baronet. There were several other sons who had had the luck to be born ahead of “Bob”, and his chance for attaining to the rank and title of baronet was therefore extremely slim. However, his father was able to send him to Oxford, from which ancient seat of learning he was graduated with honors. As a younger son he was set apart for the ministry, where he finally landed after sowing his wild oats, which he did in a gentlemanly and temperate manner that comported well with the profession for which he was destined, all his studies having been along theological lines. The wanderlust was in his blood, however, and he declined taking holy orders until he had seen something of the unholy world outside. Accordingly he took the portion due him, or which his father gave him, and departed for Canada. Not finding things just to his taste in that British appanage, possibly not rapid enough for a divinity student, he promptly crossed the line and began making himself into a Yankee, in all except citizenship.

In his wanderings he finally reached Oshkosh, attracted no doubt by the euphony of the name, which has made the little “saw dust city of the Fox” one of the best known towns, by title, in the world. If there was any one place more than another cal-

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