George Newhall's Recollections of February 1866

In February 1866, Mrs. Mary M. Patterson (later known as Mary Baker Eddy), was severely injured after a fall on ice. Her subsequent recovery through prayer led to her discovery of Christian Science. Immediately after the accident, George Newhall, a milkman, was sent to tell the Reverend Jonas B. Clark of Mrs. Patterson’s condition. Years later, Mr. Newhall recorded the following affidavit about his recollection of that episode.


George Newhall at what is today the Mary Baker Eddy Historic House in Swampscott, Mass.

Swampscott Aug. 29th, 1920

To whom it may interest.

Having been asked to state on paper what I knew of the late “Mother” Eddy so-called in former years, I will say I was personally acquainted with Mrs. Eddy in 1866, then Mrs. Mary Patterson. She lived at the time in the house now numbered 23 Paradise Road, then Paradise Court, then owned by Mr. Armenius Newhall.

Mrs. Patterson attended the Congregational church, also a temperance society to which the writer also attended. She wrote and read many pieces to the meetings. By way of business, the writer called at the house 23 Paradise Court every morning, seeing Mrs. Patterson quite often. On the back ground of the premises there was a fountain stoned up with granite. The writer used to see Mrs. Patterson sitting on the wall apparently in deep thought. She would write a little while then gaze into the water awhile as if waiting for inspiration. While in these moods she wished no conversation with anybody.

In January1 1866, the mercury below zero, upon calling at the house I was informed that Mrs. Patterson had met with an accident by falling on the ice and had broken her spine2 and would never be able to take another step alone. Two members of the same church, Mrs. Carrie Millet and Mrs. Mary Wheeler, [were] with her. Dr. Cushing of Lynn was the attending physician. A part of what stamped the affair so permanently on my memory was that morning Mrs. Millet asked me to go down to Marblehead line and inform the minister, the Rev. Jonas B. Clark, of the accident. There being no public conveyance in those days, with the mercury below zero and a slow horse and business pung, I drove a distance of two miles. When I got back to town I was so near finished with cold I could not speak for some time.

A page of Newhall’s affidavit in the Longyear Museum collection.

Three or four mornings after calling at the house, Mrs. Millet informed me that a great change for the better had come over Mrs. Patterson. The evening before, to use Mrs. Patterson’s own words, she says, “I am going to walk.” Those present thought her mind wandering. She immediately pushed herself unaided to the side of the bed, placed her feet on the floor and walked to the side of the room and sat in a chair. Then she says, “This is all through prayer,” it being the first time she had moved her legs without help since her injury.

A few years after,3 Mr. Newhall sold the property 23 Paradise Court to a Mr. Peal of Boston. Then Mrs. Patterson went to live with Mrs. Wheeler. While she was there, Mr. Newhall bought the home on New Ocean Street, in after years called “The Wave.” Then Mrs. Patterson went there, which accounts for the reason that many people think the house on New Ocean St. is where Mrs. Patterson first demonstrated Christian Science. The next I knew of her was she lived on Broad Street, Lynn, having a large sign on the house which read “Christian Scien[tists’] Home,” under the name of Mrs. Mary Glover. The circumstances of which I have written are as fresh and clear in my memory as at the time they occurred.

Very Respectfully,
George Newhall

I, Milton D. Porter, a resident of Swampscott, Mass., and a Justice of the Peace of the Commonwealth, hereby state that, having had long time business acquaintance with Mr. George Newhall, signer of the above, do consider him to be an honest and reliable citizen.

Jan 11, 1921
Milton D. Porter

Notes


  1. “January”: the date was probably February 3.
  2. “Broken her spine”: an overstatement on the part of Mrs. Patterson’s friends. Dr. Alvin Cushing described her condition as “concussion and possible spinal dislocation.”
  3. “A few years after”: actually about six weeks later.

This article was originally published in the Winter 1998 Quarterly News. Paragraph breaks have been added for easier reading.

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