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After finishing his final year at Concord Academy in 1833, Thoreau reluctantly began to prepare to go to Harvard University.
Henry David Thoreau was born on July 12, 1817 in a farmhouse, known as the Minot house, on Virginia Road in Concord, Mass.
Thoreau was actually born David Henry Thoreau but began calling himself Henry David after finishing college, although he never legally changed his name.
He says, ‘September is the first month with a burr in it’; and his speech always had an emphasis, a burr in it.
His great-grandmother’s name was Marie le Galais; and his grandfather, John Thoreau, was baptized April 28, 1754, and took the Anglican sacrament in the parish of St. Thus near to old France and the Church was our Yankee boy.” The Thoreau family left the farm where Henry David was born when he was about a year old and moved to Chelmsford, Mass for two years and then moved to Boston for three years before finally returning to Concord.
Thoreau also built his own boat, at age 16, which he called “the Rover” and used it to row along the Concord river, then built another boat with his brother John, which he used on his trip up the Merrimack River in his book A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers.
In addition to boats, Thoreau also made pencils, built fences, finished barns and built bookcases.
In Channing’s biography of Thoreau, Channing relayed some stories of Thoreau’s early years told by his mother, which describe him as an adventurous young boy often plagued by injury and a chronic health condition: “At Chelmsford he was tossed by a cow, and again, by getting at an axe without advice, he cut off a good part of one of his toes; and he once fell from a stair.
After this last achievement, as after some others, he had a singular suspension of breath, with a purple hue in his face, – owing, I think, to his slow circulation (shown in his slow pulse through life) and hence the difficulty of recovering his breath.
He liked to watch the canal barges move along the Concord River, loaded with bricks or iron ore, and was thrilled when the boatmen let him leap aboard for a short passage.
A special treat came when his mother asked him to stay home from school to pick the huckleberries she needed for a pudding.