THE ROMANTIC HISTORY OF JEREMIAH N. REYNOLDS
The story of Jeremiah N. Reynolds' life, as told in the "History of Clinton County," is a romantic story. He was born in Pennsylvania, and in 1808, when a lad of eight years, the family (that of his stepfather, Job Jeffries) moved into this county. They were poor, and he had but little schooling, and this little with board inclusive he paid for by working mornings and evenings and on Saturdays. Sometimes he went into the prairies of Clark county, and added to his funds by engaging in ditching. He was regarded as a bright boy by his schoolmate, the late Judge Abner Haines, of Eaton, who says he came to school clad in leather breeches and a linsey warmus, and then the judge told this story illustrative of his character:
Job's Oxen. He had a stepbrother by the name of Darlington Jeffries, a son of Job Jeffries, and the neighbors called them in fun Job's oxen, and often ran the joke to the chagrin of young Reynolds. On one occasion there was a log-rolling at Azariah Wall's, when the neighbors were pretty generally collected, and among them Darlington Jeffries and Jeremiah Reynolds. In the afternoon Reynolds was carrying the end of a handspike opposite to Peter Wrightman, a small, well- built man, and young Reynolds, though large of his age, was unable to move with the weight and broke down, which incident created much merriment among the hands, and one of them remarked that one of Job's oxen was a calf. This so offended Reynolds that he left the field, and, as he crossed the fence near by, he set his feet on the outside lower rails, and in the most stately attitude thus addressed them: 'Gentlemen, I have no father to guide and protect me through life, and you have had your fun with me to-day. Many of you are old enough to be ashamed of thus rallying a young and unprotected boy; but, gentlemen, you know little about him of whom you are making fun, for I assure you the time is coming when you will feel proud that you ever rolled logs with Jeremiah N. Reynolds, and with this sentiment I bid you good-bye.'
This little speech produced quite a sensation among the hands; some said it was an outburst of chagrin and spite, but others looked upon it as the outcropping of his coming manhood. But, be this as it may, I myself have heard several of these men in after life refer to this incident in the very light in which young Reynolds expressed it from the fence."
A Convert to Symmes' Theory. By teaching a common and then a writing-school, he gathered funds to enable him to obtain three years of instruction in the Ohio University at Athens. After this he edited a paper, the Spectator, at Wilmington, which he sold out about 1823. He became a convert to the theory of Capt. Symmes that the earth is hollow and inhabited within, called the system of "Concentric Spheres." His theory was, that the earth was composed of several spheres one within another, and all widely open at the poles. Mr. Reynolds united with Capt. Symmes, and the two travelled and lectured together, when Symmes was taken sick and died. Reynolds persevered, and lectured in all the principal Eastern cities, always to full houses, and charged fifty cents admission, making many converts. He thus acquired a large fund; this with the influence and co-operation of Messrs. Rush and Southard, members of President John Quincy Adams' cabinet, enabled him to fit out a national ship, to explore the ocean to-ward the South Pole, to test the truth of the theory, but before he could sail Andrew Jackson came to the Presidency, and stopped the project.
Reynolds soon found a congenial spirit in Dr. Watson, of New York. Watson being a man of wealth, he and Reynolds united their means, and fitted out a ship and two small tenders for southern explorations, which were manned with officers and men and provisioned for twelve months.
Sails for the South Pole. Their vessel, the "Annawan," N. B. Palmer, captain, sailed from New York harbor in October, 1829, expecting to have the pleasure of entering into the South Pole. " They at length arrived in sight of land, which they afterward discovered to be a southern continent, which seemed completely blockaded with islands of ice. A landing was determined on. The long-boat was launched, with a crew of twenty men. In attempting to reach the shore in a storm, while the waves were rolling mountain-high, they were obliged to pass along between the shelving rocks of the shore and the heaving masses of floating ice for a considerable distance, every moment liable to be crushed to atoms. They, however, arrived at a landing-lace, and immediately with joy drew their boat upon shore, which proved to be a solid rock. On careful observation they found they were on an extensive continent, covered completely with solid ice, and no vegetable growth to be seen. Now that they were landed no provisions were to be obtained, and starvation seemed to stare, them in the face. But, behold! Providence seemed to provide the means of support in the sea-lion. He exhibited himself at the mouth of a cave, and ten men, in two squads, were sent out to bring him in. They soon returned with his carcass, which weighed 1,700 pounds. His flesh was excellent eating. By an accurate astronomical observation they found their latitude to be eighty-two degrees south, exactly eight degrees from the South Pole. After some ten days of anxious delay on land, the sea becoming calm, they put out to sea in their long-boat, to endeavor to discover the ships they had left. They sailed on for nearly forty hours. At length, being very weary, late in the night they drew their boat upon an inclined rock. All in a few minutes were sound asleep except Reynolds and Watson. They stood sentinels over the boat's crew too anxious to sleep. About two or three o'clock in the morning they saw a light far distant at sea. The crew was soon wakened, and all embarked in their boat, and rowing with might and main for the ships. They soon arrived, and the meeting of the two parties was full of enthusiastic joy. They were convinced that they could not enter the South Pole, as it was blocked up with an icy continent, hence they were willing to turn their faces homeward. They soon arrived at Valparaiso, Chili. Here the seamen mutinied against the authority of the ship, set Reynolds and Watson on shore, and launched out to sea as a pirate-ship."
Reynolds now travelled by land through the Republic of Chili and the Araucanian and Indian territories to the south. It is said that while among the Araucanians he was engaged as a colonel of a regiment at war with a neighboring tribe, and while marching through a deep and narrow gorge was thrown from his horse and severely hurt. He was at Valparaiso in October, 1832, when the United States frigate, " Potomac," under Commodore John Downes, arrived there. This vessel in August, 1831, had been sent to the coast of Sumatra, to avenge the wrongs done the United States ship "Friendship," of Salem, at Quallah-Battoo, on that coast.
At Valparaiso he joined the "Potomac" in the capacity of private secretary to the commodore, and was with her until her long cruise of several years duration was completed, the entire history of which he wrote for the United States government.
Then he studied law in New York, and became a successful advocate. In 1848 he organized in New York a stock company for mining in New Mexico, which was successful. His health, however, broke down under his persistent labors, and he died in New York in 1858, aged fifty-nine years.
To this foregoing sketch we add a few lines of personal recollection. Mr. Reynolds in his polities was a Henry Clay Whig, and during the political cam-paigns of that era delivered free lectures in behalf of protection. At one of these we were present. According to our memory he was a firmly built man, of medium stature, with a short nose, and a somewhat broad face. His delivery was monotonous, but what he said was solid, and his air in a high degree respectful and earnest and withal very sad, as though some great sorrow lay upon his heart, which won our sympathy, and this without knowing anything of his history.
It is difficult to place Poe solidly within the circle of Symmes' followers of which Reynolds was most prominant. Poe's exact relation to Reynolds is indeterminate. Writings of Reynolds' appeared in the Southern Literary Messenger during the time Poe served as Editor of that magazine; Poe included Reynolds' signature in his "Autography," along with a short paragraph analyzing his hand as that of a clerk.
The lecture tour of 1825, on which Reynolds propounded the Hollow Earth Theory, received much public attention in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Boston and New York; however, Poe was at this time in his teens and at the University of Virginia. Then there is the final utterance of Poe's: in his last delerium he is purported to have called out, "Reynolds! Reynolds!" Without journeying too far into the realm of conjecture, we can say little but that Reynolds spoke and wrote about, and experienced, things with which Poe's imagination was also engaged.