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 excursion 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 to release Henry in the morning. Henry should

have never spent the night in jail have since the state no longer had a reason to hold


When Henry found out that his tax had been paid he was outraged and wanted to

remain in the jail. Henry argued that since he himself was not the one who