One of a Kind ... The Grass Man
by Rev. Dr. George W. Reynolds, April 25, 1910

reprinted from Old Manchester II ... The Storytellers, published 1995 by the Mancheser Historical Society

Grass expert's funeral held in Manchester

The funeral of Luther James Bradford Olcott was held at his home on Olcott Street yesterday afternoon at 2 o'clock. Rev. Dr. George W. Reynolds, pastor of the Center Congregational Church, a church which Mr. Olcott's forefathers were leading factors in, officiated. Rev. Dr. Reynolds and Mr. Olcott were close friends. The pastor spoke in part as follows:

Most men live their life quietly, do their work as their fathers and grandfathers did, accomplish certain results, and go hence receiving at death the usual appreciative commendations of their fellowmen.

Once in a great while a man appears who startles his generation by blazing a new trail through life, a man who does not do his work after the traditions of his fathers, but in his own way, in a new and most refreshing way, for his way demands new thoughts, new methods, and new tools and new men. The old way is easier because the brain of man is not challenged to enter new fields of thought, the muscles are not summoned to lift new burdens or call into play their indolent and flabby associates, old tools can be used, inventive skill need [not] be called into action, no manufacturing plants built to give employment to the unemployed, and man himself can remain on the same dull plain of conformity.

When one of these rare men does appear, he disturbs our thoughts and shakes our prejudices and does violence to many of our pet schemes; but when he goes hence the world takes notice that a new chapter has been written, that a new door has been flung wide open and that new possibilities in earth, heaven and man have been revealed.

Luther James Bradford Olcott belonged to this class of rare men. He had a good start in life. He showed superior wisdom in the selection of his ancestors. There mingled in his veins the best blood of New England. He was conscious of this inheritance, he honored it and wrought under its inspiration a work worthy of his sires.

While in his teens he was overwhelmed by the gold fever which was raging in this land and found himself in California when only 18 years of age. With pick in hand and torch in cap he entered upon the mining chapter of his life, but it was short and valuable in that it taught him that it was not his work. He tried other lines of work only to learn his unfitness for them, when in response to a young man's desire to travel he started on a voyage around the world.

During these years of travel and prospecting, he learned that it was not something under the earth, nor something above the earth that he was after but something on the earth -- grass -- only this and nothing more. As soon as he made this discovery he yielded himself body, mind and soul to this work of his life. Wherever he went he could see nothing but grass. The most precious treasure he could find in his trip around the world was grass, the theme above all others in conversation was grass.

Mr. Olcott's greatness appears in that he chose to identify himself with something as small and ordinary as grass and made the grass famous. He took that strip of ground yonder, he planted it with grasses gathered from all over the globe; for twenty years he had been working with those grasses through storm and sunshine and he had made that strip of land the most famous strip of grass land in the country.

A man cannot make a strip of land famous because of this labors with grass unless he is great himself. The message of his toil was, let there be grass and nothing but grass upon this strip of land, and there was grass such as we have never before seen. Grass as thick as a sponge, as soft as velvet, grass as beautiful as a carpet for the palace of a king. A man who could impress you and the generation in which he lived with the grass he produced must of necessity impress you with his own personality, and he did.

The moment we gave attention to this man we learned that he was an unusual man, a unique man, a rare man. He impressed us with his thoughts, he thought differently than we do. We sometimes think a man must be wrong who thinks outside of our channels of thought. He dug new channels of his own and threw rich nuggets of thought upon the bank for our inspection. He thought differently than we do, and if any one does not use our set phrases we sometimes think his is to be pitied; but this man did not need any of our pity. He acted differently than we do simply because he could not be satisfied with other men's thoughts; he must think for himself.

As he could not think other men's thoughts so he could not express himself in the language of others. He was not satisfied with the tools he found here which had been handed down from former generations; he must have different tools, even if he must make them himself, which he did.

He not only succeeded in producing an unusual grass, he also succeeded at the same time in producing an unusual man. He produced a man more wonderful than the wonderful grass. He produced an original man, an original thinker, and original talker, actor and worker. He produced Mr. Olcott, and there is no other man like him; he will not soon be forgotten by those who knew him, because he cannot be forgotten. He will stand out in your memory like a bas relief.

He has given himself to this generationm he hasw not hid, concealed or attempted to deeive concerning himself. His one labor had been to produce grass, and his one effort had been to produce himself.

He had produced real grass, and he had produced a real man.