Robert Fowler Diary
Born in Salisbury, Massachusetts, on August 27, 1805, Robert Fowler was a prosperous shipbuilder and merchant with a trade extending from Nova Scotia to the Gulf South. The son of Betsy and Robert Fowler (1760-1842), a shipwright and Revolutionary veteran, Robert married Susan Edwards on Oct. 10, 1830, with whom he had at least four children: a daughter, Mary Frances (b.1831), and sons Everett(?), Robert Henry (b. 1845) and Frank Edwards (d. October 2, 1847, aged 2 years, 6 months).
An important figure in the community, Fowler displayed a strong sense of civic commitment and was involved in a minor way in local issues such as the controversial construction of a bridge over the Powow River. During the 1840s, however, religious matters dominated his concern. Deeply influenced by the moderate evangelical awakening, Fowler sometimes attended two or more services on Sundays at the local "Christian Chapel" and the Baptist Meeting House in Mills Village, among other churches. Probably a Universalist, based on his attendance at the quarterly conference in Danvers in 1842, he was of a moderate evangelical bent, rejecting the enthusiasm of Millerites, for example, and criticizing their postmillennialism as "calculated to stop revivals of religion, & contrary to Scripture."
Growing out of his religious beliefs, Fowler became an ardent temperance man, and was dismayed by the sometime lack of zeal of some of his fellow townspeople for the cause. After attending a meeting of a temperance association at which only nine of 250 members appeared, including not a single clergyman, Fowler complained that "i all this speakes anything, it tells a bad tale, viz That the subject of temperance is of but little consequence to them..." The poor attendance, however, did little to dampen his spirits. At the next meeting, the members of the association agreed to give preference in trade to temperance taverns and stores and to pay higher wages to temperate workers "as a strong inducement for all to become such." Some members of his group felt this did not go far enough: the intemperate should not be hired at all. At a later county-level meeting, temperance delegates proposed nominating County Commissioners "without regard to party affiliation," arguing that since their role of Commissioners was "rather of a moral or religious nature such as having charge of our jails, houses of correction, &c," only temperance men should be considered. Objections followed from some who felt that such a course would make the cause of temperance "was too holy a cause to be brot down to be us'd and contaminated by answering the purposes of political demagogs," and the whole was shelved.
In September 1843, thirteen years after leaving home to get married, Fowler reflected on his life:
Our family has been increased with an addition of a Daughter and Son, and health has verry generally been our lot. We have ben called to part with our earthly Parents and consign them to the tomb being one of the most trying scenes, that we are ever called to pass through; Yet we thank God that we were sustained under these afflictions, and were not called upon to sorrow as those without hope.
Thursday evening [Sept. 28, 1843] we are now again quietly situated in our new habitation the scenes of the day have ben somewhat trying to the family and has been a scource [sic] of some rather unpleasant feelings. What a powerfull agent is the mind, and how sensibly it opperates on the body: Oh! memory. Oh! recollections; how thou art able to fill the soul with ineffable joy; or bury it in the deepest anguish and grief. Well do I remember the feelings and sensations of childhood and youth; well do I remember the day I left my Fathers house and took upon myself the cares of a family but those feelings cannot be described they only be immagined by those that have passed throug the same changes.