The Life Story of Orison Swett Marden Chapter II
The Life Story of Orison Swett Marden Chapter II:
Because he believed in the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of
man, the question of blood and ancestry had no interest for Marden.
To Marden, pride of birth was mere foolishness. In effect he would say, "are we not all of one family, children of the same Father, immortal and made to be victorious"?
Why then, he reasoned, should people, especially free and democratic
Americans, spend precious time tracing ancestry, climbing family trees,
hunting up coats-of-arms, trying to trace descent from some so-called
noble family, when all that matters is for each individual to make the
most of the stuff that God has given him and do his best to leave the
world better than he found it?
Marden stated, "It is far more important to live nobly than to be nobly born."
Yet it appears that he had a pedigree of which less democratic souls
would be proud. That he was descended both on his paternal and his
maternal side from old and honorable stock, is indicated in a letter
written in later years to a niece, Lillian Elkins, of New Hampshire.
Miss Elkins wished to become a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.R.), and wrote to her uncle for family data that would enable her to prove her eligibility.
In a letter, dated October 20, 1922, Miss Elkins wrote:
I went to the Historical Rooms in Concord to get details about General
Cilley and found that there were several officers of that name. It would
help out if you could tell me which one was our relative. Otherwise we
shall have to go through several books and look up the history of each
one separately, if I cannot get the information in any other way. Here
are the names of the officers:
- Jonathan Cilley
Brigadier General Jonathan Prince Cilley
Major General Joseph Cilley
Colonel Joseph Cilley
Now can you tell me which one was our ancestor, where he was born,
and how he is connected with the Marden family? And if not any of these,
what was his first name?
"No Surrender! Must ever be the slogan of the man or woman who would overcome the obstacles that block the road to success."
- Orison Swett Marden
Orison Swett Marden Chapter II , continued...
Replying to this letter, Doctor Marden wrote the following:
I can't tell you how sorry I am not to be able to give you any definite
information regarding our ancestry. When our home was broken up, the
family Bible, in which all these records were kept, was sold, and there
was no other record kept by our guardian.
I was then only seven years old, and, upon being put out to live with
strangers, I was entirely cut off from my people and had no opportunity
to learn anything about my ancestors.
Nor, indeed, did I have a chance to learn much about myself. But, as
you know, I have never had any great interest in my family history. I
have always been more interested in those who would come after me than
in those who went before me, excepting, of course, my own father and
All I know is that my mother was a direct descendant of a General
Cilley, who was a prominent officer in the Revolutionary War. My
grandmother was a McCutcheon. As you know, this family figured largely
in the earlier history of our country. The Mardens came from an old
English family, and there are five towns in England named after them.
I do not know where my mother, Martha Cilley, was born. Nor do I know
where my father or either of my grandfathers was born. I know nothing
whatsoever about my grandfather on my father's side, and never knew any
of my relatives on my mother's side. But I was told time and time again
that the Cilley who was a high officer in the Revolutionary Army was an
ancestor of my mother's. It is possible that he may not have been a
general, but only a colonel. I am confident, however, that he served in
the Revolutionary War.
I have had a great many letters from all parts of the
world from people claiming relationship with our family, but I have
never cared enough about our genealogy to follow up these claims or to
find out anything about them.
All I can say definitely is that both the Mardens and the Cilleys
come from good ancestral stock, which undoubtedly qualifies you for
membership in the D.A.R. organization.
Scores of people have named their children after me, and while I
appreciate the honor they do me, and thank them for it, — honor, fame,
marks of personal distinction do not interest me at all. My chief
concern is to be of service to my fellow men.
"I have always been more interested in those who would come after me than in those who went before me"
I am ambitious above all else to do something in the
world to make my own life count in God's plan. What my ancestors or
others have done does not concern me so much as what I can and ought to
do myself — what I have planned to do. As you know, I must concentrate
vigorously on my own work to make it of value in the life of the world.
It is of far more importance to live nobly than to be nobly born.
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