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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

Joshua Coit's Account of His Brother

by William G. Gilman

"He had a physical organization admirably adapted to what he took in hand. His eye was quick, keen, and true as an Indian hunter's ; his hand pliant, dexterous, and ready in all the manipulations for which he had occasion ; his frame, light, sinewy, active, and, at least in early life, capable of long-continued exertion. His early love for field sports, in which he never entirely lost his interest, gave scope and exercise to all these qualities to which they greatly contributed. "His beautiful handwriting, his familiar letters, written with facility and dispatch, in businesslike form, without flourish and without blot or erasure, were, particularly if accompanied by a plan or sketch, like the careful work of a civil engineer. He was so much my senior that I was too young to take any part in his field sports before he had left home for a counting-house in New York, but I fell heir to sundry ingeniously constructed boy's sleds, box traps, fences, and snares for game, set up in the woods, and other like devices by which, I am sorry to say, I profited less than I might have done.

You have all witnessed his passion for sketching from nature which was one of the most enduring of his favorite pursuits. At one time he, together with Mr. Fisher, of Philadelphia, and Mr. Alleyn Otis, of Boston, both gentlemen of culture, made a tour through the borders of the Rhine, Switzerland, and Italy. They had their own carriage and stopped on their route at discretion. I was well acquainted with Mr. Otis, who used to take pleasure in telling me of the agreeable, companionable qualities of my brother, and of their interest in witnessing his zeal in this occupation. Hardly would they stop for rest or refreshment, when he would be off, sketch-book and pencil in hand, for an artistic point of view, and seldom failed to bring away a more or less finished sketch and memento of figure or landscape."

Excerpted from A Memoir of Daniel Wadsworth Coit of Norwich, Connecticut, 1787—1876 by William C. Gilman, 1908.

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