Henry David Thoreau

Henry spent the majority of his life walking in and around the town of

Concord, although he did make few journeys to other places. Henry spent

most of his time walking in the wilderness of Concord. Occasionally, he

be found sauntering and conversing with his mentor and friend, Ralph Waldo

Emerson or Ellery Channing.

Some believe Henry went to live at Walden Pond because he was a

hermit or a recluse or because he hated his fellow man, but this is not the

case. Henry had a very special and sincere reason to go to Walden Pond;

to honor his brother. On January 11, 1842, Henry's brother, John Jr.,

died of lockjaw. It was his brother's death which prompted Henry to

decide to go to Walden Pond. Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great "Sage of

Concord," owned land adjacent to Walden Pond and allowed Henry to live

at Walden Pond. Henry went to Walden Pond to work on a book, A Week on

the Concord and Merrimack Rivers which would be a tribute to John

Thoreau Jr. Henry stayed at Walden Pond for two years, two months and

two days. Henry wanted to live deliberately and so he went and built a

simple cabin at Walden Pond. Henry explains in Walden,

"I went to the woods because I wished to live

deliberately, To front only the essential facts

of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to

teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that

I had not lived."

Henry left his nearby town of Concord to live at Walden Pond on

July 4, 1845, Independence Day. Some have speculated that this date

represents Henry's personal declaration of independence from society.

Others have pointed out that July 4th was the day before his brother's

birthday. By leaving for Walden on July 4th, Independence Day, Henry would

have spent his first full day at Walden Pond on the anniversary of his

brother's birthday. This idea is further supported in Walden,

"When I first took up my abode in the woods,

that is, began to spend my nights as well as days

there, which, by accident, was on Independence

day, or the fourth of July, 1845..."

Ralph Waldo Emerson provided Thoreau with the opportunity to

complete his first work, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers and

the first draft of a Thoreau's uniquely american work, Walden; or Life in the

Woods. Walden, as it is more commonly and popularly known, is Henry's

response to a multitude of questions he received as a result of living

two years, two months, and two days in his small cabin in the woods at

Walden Pond.

Although many believe Henry was a recluse, Henry was no stranger to

society while he lived at the Pond. He had frequent dinners with family

and friends. Henry also had friends and the occasional curious neighbor

visit him at his cabin. Henry explains,

"I had three chairs in my house; one for

solitude, two for friendship, three for society."

In late July of 1846, a little more than one year into Henry's

to Walden Pond, Henry needed to get his shoe repaired. He walked into

Concord to get the hole in his shoe repaired but as he was leaving the

cobbler's store, Sam Staples, the town constable, asked Henry to pay his

poll tax. Henry was intentionally several years behind in paying his

tax. When asked to pay up, Henry flat out refused to pay the poll tax.

Henry objected to the use of the revenues of this poll tax. The revenues

were used to help finance the United States' war with Mexico and

supported the enforcement of slavery laws.

Henry refused to pay his taxes and refused the offers made by Sam

Staples himself to pay the tax. Since Henry refused to have his tax

paid, Sam Staples was required to take Henry to jail. Henry spent that

night in jail. During that evening however, someone heard that Henry was

in jail and paid Henry's taxes. No one really knows for sure who paid

the tax, but most believe it was Henry's Aunt Maria Thoreau.

When Sam Staples found out that Henry's taxes were paid it was after he

had taken off his boots for the evening, so he decided