Biography of William Cant Sturoc
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William Cant Sturoc, “the bard of Sunapee ,” as he is often called, was born November 4, 1822, in a humble, straw-thatched cottage in Arbroath, Scotland, son of Francis Sturoc and his wife, Ann (Cant) Sturoc. Doubtless, the poetic genius has descended to him from his paternal great-grandfather, James Sturoc, who wrote a book of “Hymns and Spiritual Songs,” and died in Panbride in 1750. Other distinguished members of the family were well known in the church. Among these was the Rev. David Sturoc, who was of ready speech and pen, and two generations ago repeatedly entered public debate with the renowned Dr. Wardlow, of Glasgow. Francis, the father of William, was well known as highly cultured and profoundly read, although throughout his life he followed mercantile occupations. Cantsland, an ancient estate in Kincardineshire, now in other hands, was for several hundred years in the possession of the Cants, the mother’s family. James Cant, the maternal grandfather of William C., and a resident St. Cyrus in the same county, was cousin to the famous Immanuel Cant, or Kant, who died in 1804. James had four daughters-Helen, Ann, Margaret, and Jane. His only son, John, died in Bridgeport, Conn. Ann Cant married Francis Sturoc, December 19, 1808, and to them were born ten children. The father died in 1851, aged seventy-seven years, after surviving the mother some years.
William Cant, the ninth child of his parents, spent his earliest years in Arbroath, Forfarshire, Scotland, there obtaining his elementary education. Afterward he spent two years at Edinburgh, where he took a course of study under Andrew Combe, a wellknown educator of his day. After finishing his education in his native land, Mr. Sturoc went to Canada in 1846, and located in Montreal. He there secured a position with Edward Maxwell, an architect and builder. Some years later he met William W. Eastman, of Sunapee, N.H., upon whose invitation he paid his first visit to this town. It was during this visit that he made the acquaintance of the late Hon. Edmund Burke, of Newport, N.H., who advised him to study law, and who ultimately received him into his office for that purpose. Under the influence and instruction of so strong a politician the young man soon became widely interested in politics, and before long was championing upon the stump the Jeffersonian doctrines to which he has since firmly adhered. He was admitted to the bar in 1855, and in the following year he came to Sunapee, where he has ever since had his home. He became a prominent figure in the public life of the community, and soon commanded the full confidence of his townsmen in all legal matters. His legal reading was at the same time extensively pursued; and in 1871 he was the author of a series of articles on “A Constitutional Judiciary,” appearing in the New Hampshire Patriot, which were attributed by many of his profession to the late Hon. Edmund L. Cushing, subsequently Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. From 1865 to 1869 Mr. Sturoc represented his town in the General Court, where he maintained a prominent position among the leaders on the Democratic side of the House, and where he was distinguished as a ready and eloquent speaker.
Not only in America, but in his native land, his poems have received attention and admiration. Appreciative notices of him are to be found in “Scottish Poets in America ” by Ross, “Modern Scottish Poets” by Edwards, B. Chapin’s “Poets of New Hampshire ,” “Round about the Round O” by George Hay (author of History of Arbroath, Scotland ), and in the Granite Monthly. Much of the information embodied in this brief sketch is to be credited to the Granite Monthly. In the interesting biography of Mr. Sturoc, published by this periodical, the writer says of his work: “His occasional poetic productions, given to the public through various channels in the past, have demonstrated through their fineness and delicacy of sentiment, combined with vigor of expression, the real poet soul with which he is endowed, have undoubtedly won him truer admiration than anything he has accomplished in other directions, and have inspired the hope for which, we trust, there is reasonable promise of fulfilment, that ere his life work is ended he may gather up for preservation in substantial form the charming gems of fancy to which his muse has given birth.”
In 1856, December 12, Mr. Sturoc was united in marriage with Sarah C. Chase, a cousin of the late Chief Justice J. E. Sargent, of Concord. His home, a fine old mansion, which was the ancestral home of his wife, was remodelled by him in 1860. In July, 1867, Mr. Sturoc is still in vigorous health. He derives much enjoyment from scientific studies, which for the last twenty years he has carried on in the retirement of his study, surrounded by his excellent library and his favorite books on astronomy, geology, and cerebral physiology. Of his many beautiful poems none is more liked in Sullivan County than the one here appended:-
Once more, my Muse, from rest of many a year, Come forth again and sing, as oft of yore; Now lead my step to where the crags appear In silent grandeur, by the rugged shore That skirts the margin of thy waters free, Lake of my mountain home, loved Sunapee!
Meet invocation to the pregnant scene, Where long, ere yet the white man’s foot did roam, Strode wild and free the daring Algonquin, And where, perchance, the stately Metacom Inspired his braves with that poetic strain Which cheered the Wampanoags, but cheered in vain.
Clear mountain mirror! who can tell but thou Hast borne the red man, in his light canoe, As fleetly on thy bosom as e’en now Thou bear’st the pale face o’er thy waters blue? And who can tell but nature’s children then Were rich and happy as the mass of men?
Sweet Granite “Katrine” of this mountain land, O jewel set amid a scene so fair! Kearsarge, Ascutney, rise on either hand, While Grantham watches with a lover’s care; And our dark “Ben” to Croydon sends in glee A greeting o’er thy silvery breast, Lake Sunapee!
How grand, upon a moonlit eve, to glide Upon thy waters, ‘twixt the mountains high, And gaze, within thy azure crystal tide, On trembling shadows of the earth and sky, While all is silent save when trusty oar Awakes an echo from thy slumbering shore.
O lovely lake, I would commune with thee,-For in thy presence naught of ill is found,-That cares which wed the weary world to me May cease to harass with their carking round, And I awhile midst nature’s grandeur stand, On mount of rapture ‘twixt the sea and land.
Thy past is curtained by as deep a veil As shrouds the secrets which we may not reach; And then ’twere wisdom, when our quest doth fail, To read the lessons which thou now dost teach, And in thy face, on which we look to-day, See hopes to cheer us on our onward way.
Roll on, sweet lake! and if, perchance, thy form Laves less of earth than floods of Western fame, Yet still we love thee in the calm or storm, And call thee ours by many a kindly name. No patriot heart but loves the scenes that come, O’er memory’s sea, to breathe a tale of “home.”
And, when the winter in its frozen thrall Binds up thy locks in braids of icy wreath, Forget we not thy cherished name to call, In fitting shadow of the sleep of death, When golden rays shall o’er our rest still flee, As morning beams salute thy brow, sweet Sunapee!