Chaplain H. M. Turner’s Tribute to the late Miss Mary Harden
Christian Recorder: March 25, 1865
MR. EDITOR;--While reading the Anglo tonight, I was startled for a moment to find recorded the death of Miss Mary Harden, of Baltimore city. However, I need not have been, knowing, as I do, that Death’s uncompromising mission is to mow down the inhabitants of this world, and that we all in our turn will have to bow responsively to his mandate, yielding up our lives to him who is called the “king of terrors, and a terror to the king.”
But having been removed from the society of mortals for a purpose, I trust, infinitely more important than would have been accomplished by any protraction of days on earth, I simply desire to tender a tribute of my respect to one around whom clustered so many favorable considerations, and to who I am under a special debt of the profoundest gratitude, not from mere acquaintances, nor from any special sets of kindness beyond that shown by thousands of others, but because when, several years ago, I came to Baltimore searching for a pure atmosphere where all of those oppressive and prejudicial frowns, culminating in their proscriptive horrors, which had hung, dark and gloomy over me in the now Yankee-trodden State of South Carolina, being shallow in ideas, narrow in conception, very limited in education, fearful, apprehensive, mistrustful, and excessively doubtful, even in the mainsprings of my own manhood.
It was the hand of Miss Harden which was first reached out to conduct me upon a plane of higher thought, and was used to polish this rough stone of the forest. Though I was then a minister of the gospel, and generally regarded as quite successful, yet before this noble lady’s graceful presence I stood daily, until the English Grammar was parsed from its commencement to its end.
But need I enumerate her literary drillings? NO, they are too great; yet this I will say, when she, on one occasion, remarked, calling me by name, that the language used in my sermon on the previous day “was quite passable,” I felt twenty times larger; for the way she used to riddle my sermons and speeches, when criticizing them for my own benefit, almost tempted me, at times, to believe that it was useless to hope for respectability. Though she was weighing them in the scales of her own great intellect, for when others would praise and admire, she would condemn, censure, and brand. Sermons that ignorant people greatly admire are only chaff for the educated; for a man to estimate his capacity as a preacher by the commendation of the masses, is to argue his irrecoverable state of ignorance.
In the death of Miss Mary Harden the human family has lost a useful member, and her school children, a faithful and honest instructor. She was finely educated, well informed, both graceful and handsome. Her untarnished reputation defied the most artful tongue of the defamer. Chaste in style, attractive in manner, yet modest, sedate, and too reserved. She lived an honor to her grandfather, Bishop Waters, and to-day, I trust, greets him in the kingdom of God.
It is under a sense of the highest appreciation which begets in my soul such solemn evolutions, while writing about one to whom I owe so much regard, especially when the thought strikes me, that she is gone, leaving me to dispose of those instructions she labored to give in the adjoining State, to the one from which that mind emanated, which was the recipient of those very instructions.
Farewell, Mary Harden, I bid you adieu for a short time only; ere long, too, this mortal, God being his helper, will also put on immortality.
Smithville, N. C., Feb. 23d, 1865