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New Jersey Obituaries - August 18, 1897 - Anson Bement Guilford

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Death Of A. B. Guilford

He Died Last Thursday In Paris

He Was Principal of the Red Bank Public School For Several Years - His Trip to Paris Taken Partly for Health and Partly for Study

Anson Bement Guilford, who was principal of the Red Bank public schools from 1873 to1880, died of typhoid fever in Paris last Thursday. He had gone to Paris to spend his vacation, partly for study and partly for the benefit of his health. His wife and his three daughters, all of whom are grown up, have been spending the summer at Martha's Vineyard.

Mr. Guilford was about 46 years old. He came to Red Bank in 1873, shortly after graduating from one of the best schools of New England. He was married shortly before he came to Red Bank. A few months after their arrival in Red Bank, Mr. and Mrs. Guilford began housekeeping, and their home was the headquarters for several literary societies.

The Red Bank Literary society was organized by Mr. Guilford. This was the most popular society of the kind ever organized in Red Bank, and it was continued until almost the time for Mr. Guilford's departure from town. This society met every two weeks at the homes of the various members. After the first few weeks the society became so popular and there was such a rush to join it, that none of the houses of the town could accommodate the throngs, and the membership was thereafter restricted.

Another society which was formed by Mr. Guilford was the Clionian society. This was organized chiefly for the benefit of the school teachers of the town and township, and of a few others who were fond of study. This society met once a week in the schoolhouse, and it was kept up for two or three years. An elocution society or class was also formed in Red Bank by Mr. Guilford, and teachers of elocution came from New York to give lessons. This class or society was kept up about three months and was then disbanded.

The foundation of the library of the Red Bank public school was laid by Mr. Guilford. During several years of his principalship of the school exhibitions or "reunions" were given about once a month, and the proceeds from these entertainments went into the library fund. Mr. Guilford had the finest private library in the town while he was here, and many of his books found their way to the school library. He also provided a fine equipment of chemical and electrical apparatus for the school.

Mr. Guilford was very popular, and he took a leading part in most of the church entertainments of all denominations that were given in the town. He had a peculiar mannerism which was very taking and he was very quick-witted. Red Bank at that time was a much smaller town than it is to-day, and it had many of the characteristics of villages. At times when Mr. Guilford was taking part in exhibitions or entertainments, a colloquy would occur between himself and persons in the audience, but it always ended to the disadvantage of the auditor starting it. Mr. Guilford had the happy faculty of saying sharp things in a manner which left no sting behind, and it was this faculty, combined with his quick wit, which made him a pleasant companion. His society was much sought after, especially at church gatherings and similar social events.

He was an enthusiastic naturalist, and a firm believer in Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. At the present day the evolution theory is believed in in greater or lesser degree by almost every person of intelligence, church members as well as others. Twenty-five years ago there was a prevailing fear lest in some way the evolution theory was going to overturn the Christian religion. It required as great moral courage in those days, in a locality like Red Bank, to declare a belief in evolution, as it did in many localities during the war to declare oneself an abolitionist. Many of the essays at the literary society, and particularly those of women church members who had joined the society, contained allusions to the wickedness of this belief, and to the dire distress which would eventually overtake those who held to his wicked and pernicious doctrine.

While Mr. Guilford was an enthusiast in all lines of natural history, his greatest interest was in botany. Jacob Corlies was postmaster of Red Bank at that time, he was also a member of the board of school trustees. He and Mr. Guilford were almost inseparable companions. After school hours, and especially on Sundays, they would go on long strolls through the country. Occasionally a friend or two would join them. Mr. Corlies, or "Jake," as he was known to every body, was almost as quick-witted as Mr. Guilford. On these strolls the two men would give free rein to their fancy, and they were more like two schoolboys out for a frolic on a half-holiday than a couple of staid business men holding semi-official positions, with families to support, and with a reputation for decorum to maintain. Both men were well read, and their talk would be enlivened with appropriate quotations from the poets, or from the classics. Neither man could sing, but neither man hesitated to attempt it, when they thought that they were deep enough in the woods or swamps not to be overheard.

On these strolls, which were partly for obtaining specimens of plants and flowers, Mr. Guilford was ever alert for the discovery of rare specimens. His herbarium or collection of dried and pressed plants was said to be the finest in the state of New Jersey, and it contained every plant known to grow in Monmouth county. All these he had gathered himself. In addition to these plants he had very complete herbariums of plants which grow in other states and in other countries, which he had obtained by exchange. He was an active member of several scientific societies, and was an honorary member of several others.

When Mr. Guilford left Red Bank he moved to Jersey City, where he was given the principalship of one of the largest schools of the city, at a salary almost double what he was receiving at Red Bank. He made an annual trip to Red Bank ever since he moved away, spending part of his vacation here, and there was much rivalry among his friends as to who should entertain him while he was here. He was looked upon largely as belonging to the town, and it was felt that no one had exclusive privilege to his company while he was in Red Bank.

The announcement of Mr. Guilford's death, which was published last Friday on receipt of a cablegram from Paris, was a great shock to his many friends here, who had had no word of his sickness. Even his family had not known of his serious illness. Before his death Mr. Guilford instructed his attendants to whom messages were to be sent, and the friends who received these messages broke the news to his wife and daughters.

Source: Red Bank Register, Wednesday, August 18, 1897

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