Elijah Soule: Portrait vs. Reality

Capt. Elijah Soule and ship Aurelius, c. 1833

by Carolyn Ravenscroft

The portrait of Capt. Elijah Soule has hung over my desk at the DRHS’ Drew Archival Library for 14 years. Despite being painted by a mediocre unknown artist, Elijah is rather dashing in his navy blue sailor jacket and gold loop earring, ready to issue an order to his crew through a speaking trumpet. His shirt was initially open at the collar, but an odd pink bow was added later – perhaps to mitigate his rakish energy. His death of “Java fever” in Canton, China, at age 36 lends him a tragic and romantic air.[1] Combine the above with the fact that he was raised only a few doors down from my former Duxbury house, and you can see why he was one of my favorite local characters. Imagine my dismay then, when I discovered that Elijah wasn’t all I thought him to be. Lesson learned, you can’t judge a book by its cover or a person by a painting.

Elijah Soule (1798-1834) was born on what is today known as Marshall Street in Duxbury. He was the youngest of William Soule and Priscilla Sampson’s six children. Like two of his brothers, Elijah became a master mariner, a typical occupation for capable Duxbury men during the town’s 19th-century shipbuilding heyday. He probably went to sea as a youth or young man and rose to the rank of captain by his 20s. He was commanding Levi Sampson’s Duxbury-built brig, Arctic, when it was sold to the Baltimore merchant James Phillips in 1827. A letter sent to Soule at the time indicates that he was concerned this sale would end his tenure aboard the Arctic.[2] However, we know that Soule continued working on the vessel. Sadly, we also now know that he was involved in moving numerous enslaved men, women, and children from Maryland to New Orleans, to be sold to the cotton plantations of the Deep South. This transference of enslaved labor between states is often referred to as the “Second Middle Passage.” As the insatiable demand for labor on southern plantations grew, many enslavers from the mid-Atlantic states profited by selling their slaves to the southern market. If a merchant vessel had space, it would take on these forced and unwilling passengers. According to custom house records, the Arctic accounts for 7% of enslaved entering into New Orleans in the 1820s.[3]

Was Elijah Soule and the Arctic alone among Duxbury men or Duxbury-built ships in this endeavor? Obviously not; we know the vessel Gustavus, owned by Nathaniel Winsor Jr, also transferred enslaved to Savannah, GA, at least once. More will undoubtedly come to light with further research.

Newburyport Herald, March 13, 1835

As for Elijah, in 1833 he took command of the 358-ton Aurelius, newly built by Thatcher Magoun in Medford for Boston merchants John Brown, Isaac Schoefield Jr., and Richard Soule. Richard Soule was Elijah’s cousin, and this kinship likely made him captain. On New Year’s Day, 1834, the Aurelius left Boston for a voyage to Charleston, SC and Liverpool, England. By April, the Aurelius was cleared to leave England, bound for Canton via Batavia (Jakarta). Soule must have picked up his fever in August 1834 at his stop in Batavia, because after arriving in China, he died on September 17th. The ship returned to the US under the command of a new captain named Stoppard, laden with tea, cloth, and lacquerware to be sold in America. 

This summer, Elijah Soule’s portrait will be on display at the King Caesar House for our exhibit East Meets West: Asian Influences in 19th Century American Life. While he will grace the wall of the gallery to highlight Duxbury’s involvement in the China Trade, it is incumbent on us to remember his full career and the North’s complicity in the Southern economy.

[1] Duxbury Vital Records describe Soule’s cause of death as “Java fever.” This term simply means he died of a tropical fever contracted in Java (Indonesia).

[2] Thomas Lamb to Elijah Soule, Feb. 1827, DAL.MSS.090, Drew Archival Library

[3] Schermerhorn, C. (2015). The Business of Slavery and the Rise of American Capitalism, 1815-1860 (p. 58). Yale University Press

Clearing up Capote

Truman Capote, 1959.

The oft-told rumor that Truman Capote wrote Breakfast at Tiffanys on Clarks Island is only slightly more popular than the rumor that he wrote In Cold Blood while there. Which, if either, is right?

In the summer of 1959, the poet Sarah Wingate Taylor (owner of Cedarfield on Clark’s Island) wrote in her daily journal, “I devoured on sight a review of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Capote, from first report of his coming to Clark’s Island, has seemed to me a total anomaly. How could he fit into this quiet land, this island so rich in Nature that it engulfs and drowns the brittle sophistication of which, it seems to me, Capote is a sprig. Yet from Jean and Esther both come expectations that I shall be entertaining Truman Capote at tea.”

Truman Capote stayed on Clark’s Island in the summer of 1959 – a year after the publication of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The murders that would become the subject of In Cold Blood had yet to take place. Sadly then, we must put to rest the idea that Capote authored either of his most famous works during his summer sojourn here.

Did Sarah Wingate Taylor meet and entertain him? Not really. They saw each other a couple times in passing. One of his dogs got loose and scampered down to Cedarfield and had to be retrieved. During their brief conversation, Capote mentioned that he found the island quiet. Despite both being authors, they seemed to have ignored one another.

Taylor did offer this description, “…a bit about Truman Capote. He will not return, had found Howard’s house cold…the Larson’s grandsons talk with Capote when he suns in the Cove…Capote tells the boys he is writing a book about Russia.” [According to his editor, Capote was working on A Daughter of Russian Revolution, which was never finished]

Reminiscence of Pauline Winsor Wilkinson

Pauline Winsor Wilkinson

The following is a memoir written by Duxbury native, Pauline Winsor Wilkinson (1836-1924). Pauline was the daughter of Capt. Gershom and Jane Winsor and was born on Powder Point Ave. When she was four years old her father was lost at sea off of Cape Hatteras, leaving her mother with five children to raise alone. In 1859 Pauline married Isaac Otis Wilkinson, a Boston merchant and friend of her brother’s. Although they resided on Rutland Street in Boston’s South End, Pauline was a frequent visitor to her hometown. The Wilkinsons, with their three children, moved to Berkley, California in 1876. Sadly, Isaac died the following year. By 1890 Pauline had returned east and was residing in Brookline. In her final years she lived in the household of her son, Crayton, again in California.

Pauline Winsor Wilkinson wrote her memoir in 1921, when she was 85 years old. It is a wonderful picture of Duxbury during its shipbuilding days.


In looking back at Duxbury eighty years ago [1840s] one sees a great change.  In those days the town was occupied only by the natives and life there was simple and plain.  Once in a while it would be startled by some scandal or a runaway match, but on the whole it was very respectable and remarkably free from squalid poverty or disreputable places.  It was long before the era of good roads and they were so sandy that as the heavy four-horse yellow stagecoach made its daily trips to Boston the sand came up on the wheels and fell over on the other side, and it took all day to make the trip. I remember of making it once with my mother to visit my grandmother, who lived in West Cedar Street, Boston.  

         We stopped at the Halfway House for dinner and a short rest and to change horse, then journeyed on again.  the coach was run by “Sprague & Jones” alternately, both of whom lived on Harrison Street in the house still owned by some of Mr. Jones’ family.  

         There was a wooden bridge over the Blue Fish River, and we who lived on the Point listened to hear the four horses come clattering over it in the evening.

         Mr. Jones was not only stage driver, but he did errands as well, as there was no express.  I remember going to his house with a sample of green silk from which a dress was being made and asking him to get eight yards of guimp for it about so wide, and the next night when he returned he brought an exact match.  He said he could remember about forty errands without a memorandum, but beyond that he had to write them down.

         Later the railroad from Boston to Plymouth was built, with a station at Kingston, and the old stagecoach ceased its daily trips to Boston, but it made a morning and afternoon connection with the train at Kingston.

Old Stage on Washington Street

         The big stagecoach was later superseded by a “schooner” as it was called, a long black three-seated carriage with two horses – less cumbersome and less expensive to run, no doubt, but far less stately and picturesque.

         The Point, below Blue Fish River, and the village, were almost like two separate towns, and we of the Point considered that the “court end.”  In the eighteenth-century Mr. Ezra Weston was the richest man in town and very autocratic, so acquired the name of King Caesar.  It is a tradition that he spelled coffee “kauphy.”  He owned all the land on Powder Point and built and occupied a large cottage-shaped house, said to have a secret passage and stairway – but I will not vouch for the truth of that.

         It was his son Ezra, I think, who built and occupied the fine large house in which the original landscape wall – paper on the parlor is still preserved [King Caesar House Museum, 120 King Caesar Rd].  He had a large family but after the death of his son Alden in the house stood empty for several years.

         In 1886 Mr. Frederick Knapp bought the place and established a boy’s school [Powder Point School for Boys], for which he built a large building, also used in summer as a hotel, and called the Powder point Hotel.  It was after he owned the place that King Caesar’s old cottage was burned and an imitation of it built on the same spot.

         The Westons built and owned a large fleet of ships and fishing schooners, and Weston’s wharf was a busy place.  They also had a store next to the Cushman place [St. George Street].  The house which is now the Public Library was then on the opposite side of the street next the store, and occupied by some of the Weston family.

         Gershom Weston, son of Ezra, had a large place and house now known as the Wright place, and kept many different carriages and a colored driver, but the high “buggy” which he drove himself seemed to be constantly on the road.  He was a leader in the Temperance cause and had a speaker’s stand in the woods near Round Pond and frequent meetings.  He had a yacht, the only one at that time, though the bay was dotted with small sail boats.  There was no bridge to the beach, and most of the boats were kept at the Old Cove, and put up for the winter in the boat houses which are now used for bath houses. In those days there were no girl swimmers, they only waded in, but the boys disrobed and plunged in for a swim to “Harrifoot.”  There were salt works on the low hill above the Cove and a large windmill, much like the pictures of the Dutch windmills.  Mr. Nickerson operated it, and lived in the house now occupied by Mr. Ray Swift’s family [42 Cove St].  One of his daughters, Miss Harriet Nickerson, kept a private school in a small school house that stood on a sandbank on Cove Street between the houses of Mr. William and Mr. Henry Paulding [48 and 66 Cove St.], both of whom worked in Drew’s shipyard (afterwards Paulding’s) which was between the Drews’ houses, where the Steel cottage now stands [no longer standing]. Drew’s wharf opposite was also a busy place.  Every house had blinds and after the early morning they were all closed to keep out the flies and mosquitoes which were so plenty that every inch of paint had to be scrubbed with soap and water.  We had long poles with a pad on the end with which, while one held the lamp high, we killed all the mosquitoes we could see on the ceiling and walls before going to bed, and then they sang round our ears just as we were going off to sleep, or came in the wee sma’ hours when we were sleeping out soundest, and we found ourselves covered with mosquito bites in the morning.  There was no plumbing.  A wooden spout led from the kitchen sink to an open drain outside, and we had a big hogshead at one corner of the house to catch the rain-water, so it was no wonder we had mosquitoes and many cases of typhus fever.  The fall house cleaning was a terrible ordeal.  Every piece of furniture was moved out of each room in turn, the carpet taken up and put on the line a beaten, then turned about, the worn places put out of sight and the best part put where the most wear came.  There were no carpet sweepers, and vacuum cleaners undreamed of.  Carpets were swept with brooms which raised clouds of dust.  How the men dreaded and hated house cleaning time!  They had to eat off the kitchen table, couldn’t find their clothes, and sometimes had to sleep in another room.

10 – 36 Powder Point Ave, c. 1910

         The seven houses facing the water were occupied by (1st) Mrs. Sampson [6 Powder Point Ave], who had a son Henry and a lame daughter, Nancy Cooper, who walked with a crutch; (2nd) Mr. William Ellison and Mr. John Hicks who kept the Westons’ store [10 Powder Point Ave];  (3rd) the small cottage, by Mr. Cushman [14 Powder Point Ave], (4th) by Mr. Nathaniel Weston, grand-father of Dr. Emerson, the present owner [22 Powder Point Ave]; (5th) Mr. Reuben Drew and his son Capt. William Drew’s family, since known as Mrs. Taylor’s boarding house [30 Powder Point Ave]; (6th) Mr. Reuben Drew also built the next house in 1806 [36 Powder Point Ave].  Then came the shipyard and beyond that Mr. Charles Drew’s house, since known as Captain Adams’ place [52 Powder Point Ave].  I was born and as a child lived in the second Drew house next the shipyard, which was lively then.  My mother was allowed to take all the chips she wanted for kindling and once or twice a week we children went out with a big basket to get them.  Those big oak chips freshly cut, I can smell them now!

         The men who worked there were very orderly, self-respecting townsmen – Petersons, Holmes, Cushmans, Soules, Pauldings.  We never heard any loud or foul language and they worked early and late.  The large logs for the ships were brought to the shipyard in ox teams – sometimes two and even three yoke of oxen, and our firewood was always drawn by oxen.  There were two or three men in town whose only business it was to saw wood.  Every house had its woodshed in which the winter supply was neatly piled, oak and pine. 

         We loved the sound of the axes and hammers, and watched the progress of the vessel building until launching day came when the school was dismissed and people from all around came to see her glide down the ways into the water, the boys on deck cheering and yelling.  As soon as she was finished and off another keel was laid. The boys almost lived in and on the water and very many became so fond of its they shipped on the vessels, and in time rose to take charge and in time rose to take charge, and so the town was full of sea captains who sailed the Seven Seas, often taking their wives with them, so they were quite a travelled set, and more intelligent and interesting than the inhabitants of most small inland towns.  Each captain had a painting of his favorite ship, and they all brought home pieces of furniture, rich goods, ornaments, curios, etc., making their houses attractive; and most of their families lived in Duxbury the year round, so it was not the deserted looking place in winter that it is now.  There were lights in the houses until the modest hour of nine thirty or ten o’clock, but no lights on the streets, and when there was no moon we always carried a lantern if we ventured forth in the evening. Nearly all of them kept a “girl” for general housework at $1.50 a week, but the ladies made their own pies and cake, preserves and pickles.  Wages rose slowly and when they got to $3.00 a week, many of them gave them up, considering that altogether too much.  Quilting parties were may.  The little girls all sewed patchwork and when there were enough “squares” to cover a bed and “tuck in” they were sewed together, then six or eight ladies were invited to the “quilting”, after which a bountiful supper was served.

Cracker Tavern pictured in center

         When the sea captains were at home they drove about town with a gay horse and bright new chaise from the livery stable of the Tavern in the village, kept by one of the Winsors – now the O’Brien House [corner of Washington and Winsor, no longer standing], I think. A chaise was a one-seated covered vehicle with only two wheels and rocked as we rode.  Some of the boys who had gone into business in Boston and came down occasionally for a dance or a two -weeks vacation dubbed the Tavern with the name of “The Cracker,” because at every meal they had on the table the large soft crackers that were always used in clam or fish chowder.  Clams were plenty then and used only by townspeople who lived largely on clam, fresh and salted fish, lobster, ells, eggs and home-made pork or corned beef in winter.  The clam chowder of those days!  The clams were large and white rich in flavor, and we often made our dinner on it, with a piece of mince pie afterwards.  Almost everybody had a pork barrel in the cellar, a barrel of potatoes, one or more barrels of apples, which we ate freely, and heaps of winter vegetables, cabbages, onions, beets, etc.  We always had a barrel of flour, a big bucket of sugar, rye and corn meal, a big demijohn of molasses and one of vinegar, spices, etc., so storm as hard as it might, we had plenty to eat in the house.  Then one of the upper windows and a friend, Mrs. Ichabod Sampson, and her daughter Lizzie came prepared to spend the night with us, bringing a pie of loaf of cake with the, and around a bright coal fire and lamp we passed a long and merry evening waiting for the storm to abate before going to bed.  If it lasted a day or two they stayed until it was over.  those Duxbury days of my girlhood are pleasant to look back upon.  

         There was a shipyard nearly opposite the Drews’, on the left of the bridge going up the hill, which belonged to Levi Sampson who lived in the large house on the hill, known later as the Hollis House [615 Washington Street].  The post office was next that kept for years by old Mr. Faunce, who lived nearly opposite. His son, Zenas Faunce, had a large blacksmith’s shop at the bridge where now his daughters have a house on the same spot.  

         In the house directly opposite the Post Office Mr. Joshua Hathaway lived [598 Washington] and had a paint shop near it; next that Mr. Swift’s harness shop, where he made or repaired harnesses and carriages.  It had a large raised platform back of it where the carriages were rolled in and out.  There was no such thing as a drugstore or Apothecary’s, as they were then called, but each Doctor kept his medicines in his office and carried some about with hi.

         There were two doctors in town; Dr. Porter, who had a large practice, going far and near, his old horse jogging on often while the doctor took a nap.  He made long calls, often staying for dinner or supper where he happened to be.  His wife, too, was very prominent, being very kind to the sick or poor.  They had a family of one daughter, Jane, later Mrs. Bancroft, and six sons who all went to California and settled there [The Porters’ house is the site of the Percy Walker Pool].

Smith/Wilde House, built 1822. 45 Cedar Street

         Dr. Wilde lived in the house now owned by Mrs. Sidney Peterson [45 Cedar St], formerly belonging to Captain Jonathan Smith, whose daughter the doctor married.  Some of their grandchildren are still living in town, I believe.

         There was a gristmill next the blacksmith shop, run by Mr. Ichabod Alden, who once let some of us children go and put our hands in the warm yellow meal as it fell into the hopper, but we were a little afraid of him so ghostly in his white frock covered with meal dust, as were his hair, whiskers and eyebrows.  Later there was a gristmill on the opposite side of the bridge, over which there was some wrangling, and I think it was moved to Millbrook and has long since fallen to decay.

         There were four churches.  The present Unitarian Church, which replaced the old one with square pews and turn-up seats, which were slammed down when the congregation sat down after the long prayer.  People carried footstoves or hot bricks, as there was no other means of heating.  

         The old Methodist church (now the Episcopal Church) in which there came to be great disagreement, and Squire Sprague and some others seceded.  Mr. Sprague nailed up his pew and gave money towards building a new church, called then the Wesleyan Church, now the Congregational or Pilgrim Church.

         The Universalist Church, which stood a little further along on Washington Street, but was taken down, and Captain Daniel Winsor bought the land and took it into his place, then very nicely kept, but now for many unoccupied and neglected.

         The Point schoolhouse stood next the “spar soak” which the Rural Society bought later and cleaned out the decayed logs and refuse, and placed old Dick’s monument there, which formerly stood on the Weston land and was erected to perpetuate the memory of a favorite horse.

         How little the Westons thought that their land would ever be covered with modern houses and become like a suburban town – a Newton-by-the-sea, as some one aptly called it.  The newcomers who ha built up the Point with their pretty homes and destroyed the old-time grassy hill where we used to go for a walk to gaze out on both ocean and bay, think they have discovered Duxbury and the beauty of its quiet little bay with the ebb and flow of its water.  But they know nothing of the fishing schooners that went out regularly and brought us fish, and the packet that plied between Duxbury and Boston, bringing lumber and supplies for the stores, which kept drygoods and groceries, whale oil, which we burned in our lamps, hogsheads of molasses, and lozenges and stick-candy.  This building which you use for the Historical Society was one of them, and here men used to congregate in the evenings around the stove and spin sea yarns, or discuss news of the outer world, which drifted into town slowly, as few took a daily paper.  There was Ford’s store in Millbrook, John Alden’s on the left as you turn into Tremont from Alden Street, Sam Stickney’s ice cream shop, where Sweetser’s now is, the same store in the village, and one, I think, at Hall’s Corner.  But for little daintier laces or ribbons, when we were getting ready for the Thanksgiving Ball where we wore short sleeves with lace sewed on our short gloves and a bow of bright ribbon, we walked across the pastures to Miss Matilda Peterson’s.  she had one front room in her house on Surplus Street, used as a shop, which was very quaint, but not more so than herself, a spinster tall and thin, with her reddish hair in puffs at the sides and a cap with ribbons perched on top of her head, no teeth, her dress scant and old-style even for those days.

         There was a school called the Union School which I attended at one time, that was later made into a chapel for the new Episcopal Society which Miss Lucy Sampson was instrumental in establishing in Duxbury. The village Schoolhouse stood, I think, where the present one is, also the one at Millbrook.

         It was early in the forties, I think, that Miss Rice came and opened a private school under the auspices of Miss Mercy Frazar in the upper part of the house since known as Mrs. Hammond’s, later on the Fortescue’s a pair of stairs going up on the outside [56 St. George St].  That house and the one opposite were built by Mr. Samuel Frazar who had a shipyard and launched vessels into the millpond [47 St. George St].  Later his son, Amherst Frazar, owned them and his mother and youngest daughter, Mrs. Evans, lived there until the mother’s death. She lived to be over ninety. Later the house was known as the Howard’s who took boarders may summers.

         Miss Rice was about twenty years of age, a graduate from a West End public school in Boston, bright and tactful.  She made companions of her scholars and soon won their love and devotion, for she brought to them an entirely new element. She developed their imaginations with wonderful stories, some of which she made up as she went along; some were classical myths, which were new to them.  She had a class in astronomy and took them out in the evening to study the stars, boys ad girls together – a very popular class.  Mr. Livermore was the pastor of the Universalist Church at that time (the last, I think) to whom she became engaged, and left her school and Duxbury, and soon became Mrs. Mary A. Livermore and a very prominent woman, contemporary and friend of Mrs. Julia Ward Howe, Miss Abbey May, also Mrs. Judith W. Smith, all of whom were leaders for then unpopular movement for woman suffrage. Mrs. Smith, now ninety-seven years old, is the only one who has lived to see its final adoption by the nation. Mrs. Livermore wrote a very pleasant account of Duxbury and its people in her autobiography.

         After Miss Rice left, Mr. Stephen N. Gifford opened a private school in Masonic Hall.  He had a knack of imparting knowledge and inspiring his pupils with a desire to learn, and kept good books on his table which we might borrow when we had good lessons and retire into the woodroom to read.  For several winters where were Lyceum lectures in the basement of the Wesleyan Church, for which he got many of the lecturers, Anson Burlingame, a Mr. Otis, and Judge Russell among them, all young and cultivated men, the Judge an intimate friend of his.  He was afterwards sent to the Legislature, then was clerk of the Senate, which office he held for nearly thirty years.  He was instrumental in getting the railroad from Boston via Cohasset to Duxbury, and interested also in getting the monument to Myles Standish on “Captain’s Hill,” as it was always called.  Years before he took his scholars down there and pointed out the cellar of Standish’s house that was burned, and taught us to reverence the Pilgrims.

         Always when we went to Plymouth, which was seldom, as it took nearly all day, we went into Pilgrim Hall religiously and pored over the relics of the Mayflower people, their guns and armour, spectacles, pocket books, and crude house keeping implements, or some little personal belonging of one of the women, with a kind of awe.  I have always wondered that as a people we gave so little thought to that small brave band, who for conscience’ sake came to this desolate shore in the dead of winter where there were only savages, who might be cannibals for all they knew, and planted a new nation which has grown to be the richest and most powerful because it was planted by Godfearing people of sterling worth and honestly.  May our leaders come to a realizing sense of that and, as this is their tercentenary year, perhaps they may be reminded of them and their high purpose, and strive to emulate their good example.

Town Hall and Partridge Academy

         It was about that time, I think, that Mr. George Partridge left money to the town for an Academy, and in 1844 the Partridge Academy was opened and Mr. James Richie was the first teacher, and a good one, much respected and loved by his pupils a few of whom he fitted for Harvard College, they being apparently more ambitious than Duxbury boys of the present day. For three years through rain and shine, slush and snow and ice, my sister and I walked the long distance, unless picked up by some kind neighbor.  We carried our luncheon in a tin pail, and no mince pie nowadays, though much richer, ever tastes like the big pieces of cold mince pie that came out of that pail, with raised cake full of raisins. 

         Later Mr. Gifford bought what was Mr. Henry Thomas’ [4 Cedar Street] that family having moved to Boston after their little son Wentworth was drowned in the millpond.  Mr. Thomas had for years the care of the Daniel Webster place in Marshfield, which he bought from Mr. Thomas’ father.  As a young girl I remember of standing on the wall of Dr. Wild’s place and see the procession go by escorting Mr. Webster from the station in Kingston to his home in Marshfield.  It was after one of his great speeches in Congress and the people turned out to do him honor.  He rode in a barouche and without his hat, bowing his acknowledgements to their cheering and waving of flags, his large dark eyes, swarthy skin and weary look still lined in my memory.  Not very long afterwards, in 1852, we attended his funeral at his home.  People came from far and near in every kind of conveyance. It was a warm October day and the casket was placed under the big elm three near the house, where he used to sit so much when at home.  The railroad station not far from his place was called Webster Station.  His family has died out, the property fell into other hands, the name of the station was changed to Green Harbor, so all trace of the great man has gone from this vicinity.

         When the French cable landed on Duxbury beach there was a great celebration and we thought it would build up the town, but except for a few new families it went on about the same.  Some of the young men connected with it coming from France and England married Duxbury girls and settled down in the town, becoming as much a part of it as the natives.

Scene of the celebration, from The Landing of the French Atlantic Cable, 1869

         It was a custom in the summertime for the women to lie down after the midday dinner and have a nap.  Every blind was closed in every house and the town looked deserted. The about four thirty or five o’clock the parlor blinds were thrown open and the town was awake and ready for visitors, as “calling” was very much in vogue.

         It was on such a day that my fate rode into town. It was a hot July day and we lay stretched out on the bed, the music of the hammers in the shipyard lulling us quickly to sleep, when suddenly we were wakened by the sharp summons of “get up and dress quickly, for Fred Sampson has brought his friend, Mr. Wilkinson to see you.” “Oh, can’t you excuse us?”  “No, they didn’t come to see me, and you girls must come down just as quickly as you can” and she was gone.  We never thought of disobeying our mother, so we arose at once and much against our wishes went down when I met my fate – fortunately a happy one.

         Bath rooms were unknown.  Every house had its pump in the kitchen sink, or out of doors, and all the water had to be carried up stairs and down.  Sewing machines had not been invented and there were no ready-made garments even in the city stores.  Little girls were all taught to sew, and women were kept busy with socks and the children’s scarves and hoods, and had little time for gadding about. But I think there was much more family life than at the present time, more cozy evenings around the evening lamp and reading aloud, though there were no town libraries then.  Sometimes we played old Maids, Everlasting, or Dr. Busby, checkers of backgammon.  Later Euchre came in.

         Then, as now, we had a Fair in August in the Academy Hall, which was planned and captained principally by Mrs. Daniel Winsor, who set us all at work, whether we would or no, and the result did her and all the ladies credit.  One was for an organ for the Unitarian Church when they made $1000.  And the very handsome and substantial cemetery fence was paid for in that way, the whole town being interested and working for that.

         The dear old cemetery!  So quiet and retired from the gaiety and bustle of the summer life; where so many of our dear ones lie, as they drop away one by one.  And many who left the town even twenty-five or thirty years ago come back to lie in that quiet peaceful place, where only the wind among the pines and the song of birds break the stillness.  It is a hallowed spot that we old timers all love.

         In my girlhood days the Unitarian Church was well filled in the summer.  In July and August the well-to-do people had relatives and friends come from Boston and other places to visit them for a few weeks, and then the town was wide awake and lively, boating, riding, picnicking and tea parties.  As a grand wind-up of the season there was a Parish party to which young and old went and danced the round dances, cotillion, Hull’s Victory, Virginia Reel; such pretty, friendly parties; white-haired men and ladies in caps, young married people, engaged couples, and young men from Boston and other places who had heard of or met some of the Duxbury girls.  That was on Friday night and Saturday was the big picnic to Brant Rock.  There was but one house there then, an old-fashioned farm house not far from the rock.  All sorts of vehicles were put in commission and young people and old went to that.  We had clam and fish chowder, fried fish right out of the water, lobster, huckleberry pies and cake, and many other good things but we noticed the chowder was served in large white bowls very like the wash bowls upstairs!  On Sunday the big church was full.  After the service the vestibule was like a reception, people greeting and parting, as most of them left the next day, though a few stayed on to enjoy the warm, hazy days of early fall.

         There were many peculiar people in town, real characters, about whom one might have written tales equal to some of Miss Wilkins’, funny but pathetic stories of country people.  There was Mary Ann Alden, a direct descendant from John and Priscilla, who sat in a north ‘wing pew’ at church and during the long sermon of Mr. Moore, watched out for all the young people and visitors in town and made her peculiar and cutting remarks about them afterwards.

         Lois Brewster, in one of the southing pews, made her observations also, and at one time when there were three new engagements in our set, hurried down the church steps and tapped me on the shoulder, saying “I like the looks of your young man best of them all.”

         Bidley Soule a giant of a man in size, slouching and dirty, but with keen wit, who put the puzzling epitaph on his mother’s gravestone “The chisel can’t help her.”

         In the winter we retuned the visits our relatives and friends and got our taste of life in the city and suburbs, our first acquaintance with theaters, opera, concerts, etc.

         Once on coming home in the Spring we left Boston on the 6thor 8thof April just as it was beginning to snow. When we got to Kingston, only the mail carriage with one horse was there to meet the train as the storm was so bad. With some difficulty we got as far as Hall’s Corner, when the driver said he could take us no further as the drifts were so deep between there and the village, so we had to spend the night at Mr. Charles Soule’s at the corner.

Lyman and Emma Drew’s Boarding House at 152 Marshall Street.

         The Point boys skated on a pond at the Eagle Tree, since called Wright’s pond.  If any girls attempted it with their brothers’ skates they were called tom-boys. But they slid on the ice and went coasting on sleds.  The sleighs went juggling about, and once in the winter, usually, a big sleigh-ride was gotten up to go to Cohasset or Hingham and have a supper.  They went in a big boat – shaped sleigh that held about twenty people.  They chose a moonlight night, danced after supper, and came home long after midnight, waking up people along the road with their singing and the jingling of the sleigh bells.  There were no houses on what is now the Standish Shore, the last house being Mr. Marshall Soule’s later known as Mrs. Lyman Drew’s [152 Marshall St].  She took summer boarders and first attracted people to that part of town. Mr. Drew at one time had a dancing school in Masonic Hall.  He played violin well and always played at the dances.  

         Mr. John Wilde had a singing school in Duxbury for years and in those days the young people of a neighborhood in the summer evenings collected on the doorsteps – there were no piazzas – and sang together the popular songs, all joining in heartily, being not so critical as now, though one or two were the acknowledged leaders.

         As each set of young people grew up the summers were kept lively and enough people lived here the whole year to make some sociability in the winter time.  It was in the seventies that the ladies of the Unitarian Society bought a building Brooks stable and express office, fitted the lower part for their sewing room with kitchen, etc., and made a hall with a fine floor for dancing upstairs. It was called Duxborough Hall.

         They had a janitor and on Saturday nights gave ten cent parties which were very popular, informal and lively.  For some time it was the only hall.  The ladies enjoyed their meetings with a luncheon and did good work.  But gradually they died or moved away until so few were left the meetings were given up. A larger hall, Mattakeesett, was built for dancing or movies on the lower floor.  Finally Miss Hathaway generously bought Duxbury Hall and presented it to the Unitarian Society for their Parish House and in the winter months they hold services there.

         What is now Mrs. Horace Soule’s house formerly stood down nearly on the shore, occupied by a Peterson family, and was called Hautboy Castle, though what gave it that name I don’t recall.  Mr. Nathaniel Thayer of Boston, who came with his family one summer to board at the Howard’s discovered the sightliness of its present situation and had it moved there, remodeled, (piazzas, etc.) in the seventies and occupied it several summers.  Then Mr. Train came with his family of lively young people, when tennis was introduced and raged here.  The place is still in the Train family, being owned by the youngest daughter.

         Duxbury is changed, perhaps, for the better.  Now it has its yacht club, its tennis courts, and its golf links, its tea houses and gift-shops.  The roads are good and automobiles fly hither and thither constantly. More and more the old houses are being bought and remodeled and new ones built with electric lights and every convenience.

         The ship-builders and sea captains, the Westons, Frazars, Drews, Sampsons, Winsors, Soules, Winslows, Freemans, Thomases, have passed on.  The town is full of new names.  Monied men have come here and bought up land and houses, rents are raised so that people of moderate means, who remember the old time charm of its pure air and warm sea bathing, its restful quiet and informality, find it hard to get a place. Circumstances have taken me far from it. To revisit it now I should feel like Mr. John Porter who went away when he was a lad of nineteen and came back after twenty-five or thirty years of life in California.  When someone asked him if he found many of his old friends and acquaintances he replied, with tears in his eyes, “I find most of them in the church yard.”  Yes, the old town has changed, probably improved – but in recollection and association it will always be the dearest spot on earth to me.  If the time ever comes when the earth sidewalks with grassy edges are replaced by asphalt with stone copings, I am thankful I shall not see it.  It is the Old Duxbury I remember and love.

Berkley, California         April 1921   Pauline Winsor Wilkinson

Documenting Duxbury’s Black Heritage: 35 Pine Hill Lane

On May 17, 1843, Mary Cushman wrote her husband, Capt. David Cushman, “Mr. W is building a new house for Black Bill & Frank (by the way, Frank has got him a wife) it stands or rather it is going to stand back of the Widow Peterson’s.” The house Mary Cushman was referring to is the double house at 35 Pine Hill Lane. 

35 Pine Hill Lane, Duxbury, MA. Built by Gershom B. Weston in 1843

“Mr. W” was Gershom Bradford Weston, easily one of the wealthiest men town. He was the son of Ezra “King Caesar” Weston, II and in 1843 was the co-owner of the Weston fleet of merchant vessels, along with his two brothers. Gershom’s estate was on St. George Street and included a grand house that would one day be known as the Wright Estate (torn down in the 1960s to make was for Duxbury High School). Weston employed a number of staff, including African Americans, Bill Sherburne (coach driver) and Frank Pride. It was for them that he built a house on his property. The house remained as part of the Weston and later, Wright, estates before being separated out in the mid-20th century.

Frank Pride, c. 1890

Frank Pride, Jr. (1818-1896) was born in Salem, MA, the son of Frank Pride, a sailor from Kingston, and Mary Munson of Salem. On April 2, 1843 he married his first wife, Ann Benson of Framingham – it is Ann that Mary Cushman is referring to in her letter. Although no death record has been found for her, she must have passed prior to 1849, when Frank married his second wife, an Irish immigrant named Bridget Galvin. Frank and Bridget later purchased their own cottage on Powder Point Ave. There is only one account that mentions the Pride’s interracial marriage, in a reminiscence of her childhood in Duxbury, Mary Chilton Steele wrote, “the strangeness of a marriage between a white woman and a colored man never seemed to have received comment or notice.” They had no children. Frank appears as a farmer or farm laborer on most census records.

William H. Sherburne (1814-1862) was born in Charlestown,MA. In 1843 he was already married to Hannah Fuller (1821-1845) and his second child was on the way. Hannah was another member of Duxbury’s black community- she was the daughter of David Fuller and Hannah Williams. Prior to her marriage she had worked for the Ford family, the owners of Ford’s Store, where she helped take care of their children. After William and Hannah married, they built their own home own home at 1112 Tremont Street, but sold that property in 1842. Sadly, Hannah died in 1845 of consumption at age 23, leaving William with two little daughters, Hannah and Ann. She is buried behind what was then the Methodist Church on Washington Street. Her epitaph reads, “my husband and my children dear, I now can leave without a tear.” William remarried in 1849, perhaps a cousin of his first wife, Mary Ann Williams, and had three more children. 

A sad occurrence happened to the Sherburne family in 1856 (they may not longer have been living at 35 Pine Hill at the time). According to Ruth Ann Ford, “[Hannah] married William [Sherburne] the black coachman of Gershom B. Weston who lived not far away. She lived several years then died of consumption, like so many of her people, leaving two little children. It is sad to remember the dreadful fate of the little girl who was burned to death, having been left in the house with a fire by a step mother whom we feared was not kind to these children. This little Annie is sorrowful remembrance to me as I watched her lingering between life and death in her agony.”

The Boston Herald reported on Friday, Feb. 1, 1856,
“On Monday night about 10 o’clock, Miss Sherburne, daughter of W. H. Sherburne, of Duxbury, after retiring for the night got up and went to the closet for some food, and while there accidentaly caught her night clothes on fire and was burnt so badly, that she died about six hours.” 

It is quite possible that David Fuller (1788-1870), the father of the aforementioned Hannah Fuller Sherburne, also resided for a time at 35 Pine Hill. The 1850 Cenus Record shows him living next door to Gershom B. Weston, which would have been the right location for the house. David Fuller (1788-1870) was married to his third wife, Sylvia Prince, at that point. There is more to be said about Sylvia Prince in a future post.

The Story of Hagar Randall

The following is a first-hand account of the life of Hagar Randall (c. 1810-1895), an enslaved woman from Virginia. Not being able to read or write, she dictated her story while visiting the family of Frederick Newman Knapp in Plymouth, MA. The hand-written transcript is in the Drew Archival Library, along with a photograph of her daughters, Jerry and Dick Randall.

Dick (seated) and Jerry Randall, c. 1869.
Photographer: G. P. Critcherson, Worcester, MA.

My old mistress of all was Cockburn. I was born in Springfield, VA. My mother didn’t die til the time of the war. Where did she live? Oh, yes, Newport. Ann Powell was my new mistress.[1] I guess my mother was born in Springfield. My father belonged to the Masons. His name was Jackson. When I was 19 we moved. Nancy Cockburn had a friend just as Miss Perkins is to Miss Sally[2]– and that friend was Nancy Triplet. Nancy [Cockburn] set us all free when she died. Dr. Triplet and Bailey Tyler and Judge Dade broke the will. Tyler left Springfield on Saturday to go to Leesburg. He got as far as his farm, Shelter Farm, and started next A.M. Got one foot in the stirrup and fell back dead. Dade didn’t die till next fall. After the will was broke we all was gathered up and sent to Alexandria to Joe Bruin’s jail.[3] I wouldn’t like to describe it to you. It was more like hell than any other place. I stayed in Joe Bruin’s jail 8 weeks. Harry was not with us.[4] Seven children were with me – Mary Ellen, Dick, Jerry, Rachel and Peter, Artemis, Frances – she was the oldest child. Next oldest to Frances died and next oldest died. I raised seven, lost six. Seven were in jail. I was cooking for Joe Bruin all day. They wouldn’t let me out with the children, afraid I’d run away. I slept in jail every night. Dr. Powell bought me out of jail. Joe told me if I would go to Powell three children could go with me and he would keep the other two and wouldn’t separate them [Dick and Jerry]. I took Mary Ellen, Rachel and Peter. I had a very good life. I lived splendid but they took my children. 

When she sent Mary Ellen off the fat was in the fire. I told her [Mrs. Powell] I never would xxx her again as long as I lived. I used to go and sit and talk with her nights. If Dr. Powell had lived, Mary Ellen would not have been sent off. [she was sold for $900 and sent to sent to Louisiana]. She made as Mary was going to Fauquier to learn to cook. I used to dream and I always see her traveling. I made up my mind I’d ask Mrs. Powell so I went and said,  “What you done with Mary Ellen?” “Why didn’t you ask Mr. Taylor I guess he knows where she is.” Her son Llewellyn said “why didn’t you tell Aunt Hagar where Mary Ellen is?” “Well,” said Mrs. Powell, “Mary Ellen got to cussing and swearing.” Said I, “That’s one of Shackleford’s lies, you might as well as told us.” I knew it was a lie. “If you had sold Mary Ellen, why didn’t you tell me?” I’ve been to church and been to church to see if old Kingsford could preach anything why one woman should take another woman’s child. Do you think so you think I could take your child and sell it? She pulled her bonnet over her face and went out as if crying and I prayed to God Mary Ellen could die. I prayed Mrs. Powell might die. I told her everything right to her face for I wanted her to sell me.

Me and Tip would quarrel but me and Tip was first rate. When Tip was shut up I carried him things. He was a miserable bad boy but always my favorite, good to me. Mary went down south and stayed twelve years. 

You know when Fremont was running I knew who was running for President[5] I cared about freedom ever since I knew anything. I’ve heard talk about freedom ever since I can remember. Them that owned slaves they weren’t going to set and talk about freedom. My old master was abolitionist – Dr. Powell he didn’t believe in selling. I know by the club he belonged to. They’d all go together. There was always something dropping and you could pick it up. When Fremont wasn’t elected we was dreadful sorry. Mrs. Kitty Powell, Ann’s mother, would tell you anything. When old Abraham L was elected all was expected. I took for granted if the war came on we’d be free. The first gun that was fired I knew it – first gun on Fort Sumter. Little Fanny came and said, “Aunt Hagar the war’s begun, the war’s begun.” I was getting breakfast, I ran out and said, “Hush, it ain’t.” Every paper that came I tried to find out who was elected. Miss Ann went off and left not a soul but me. My children were sent off to Miss Emily. Harry and I lived in a little house and Miss Ann left everything in my care. 

Bull Run Battle began about 10 o’clock, 6 or 7 soldiers came to see if I could give them a dinner. By and by we heard a cannon firing and they said they believed they was going to fight that day. I give them a dinner they day. I got all kinds of vegetables in the garden. I made two great big chicken pies – damson pies, damson tarts. Oh Lord I was afraid for the soldiers that night. A great storm came on and one poor fellow who had been sick couldn’t eat nothing but boiled eggs. Very nice men looked like fellows that had been raised at home. One said, “Aunty, they’re fighting up here and if we are ordered off you must follow us.” I was feeding people all the next day, a great big pot of coffee all the time on the stove. The first day I saw soldiers was when Col. Ellsworth was killed.[6]“If you have come to kill me, kill me right here.” I was sitting one day when I saw a lot of soldiers, they came right up and I said that. 

Miss Powell said she must sell Mary Ellen to give Bob his education and she wasn’t going to draw her money out of the bank to educate Bob.[7]

The house was a contraband camp. I liked the soldiers but I was always afraid of ‘em such a mass of men and I didn’t see no women. I’d like to see Charley Clough, he was a gentleman and never lost it soldiering. Just as I was born a colored lady and through all the traveling round I has always been a colored lady. 

Peter’s mistress carried him to Leesburg and he ran away and joined the Union soldiers. I told him to xx xx like the Lord directed me what to tell him. 

I went to see Lincoln after he was dead. I walked on muskets that day and laid my hand on his face and when he was reelected, I went up and sat in Lincoln’s chair. I sat in President’s seat that day.

Your kitchen Mrs. Knapp was the first place I went in after the war.

“Hagar’s gal’s come” Uncle Harry in Mrs. K’s door. Mary Ellen knowed she was sold from Alexandria. When she came from the south she inquired for me. She was gone two years then I got a letter, Fanny came and said there was a letter from Mary Ellen. After the war I knew nothing about her til she come to find me.

After leaving the Powell’s home in Alexandria, Hagar worked for the family of Rev. Frederick Newman Knapp in Washington, DC. Knapp was an administrator in the United States Sanitary Commission. Hagar’s daughter’s, Jerry and Dick Randall, made their way to Washington, DC just as Mary Ellen did. Their story is described more fully below in Gershom Bradford’s letter.

After the war, the Knapp family moved for a brief time to Sutton, MA. Jerry Randall remained with them. It was here that she married George Lyles, also a former slave and employee of the U.S. Sanitary Commission.

The Lyles’ home at 174 Court Street, Plymouth, MA

By 1870, George and Jerry Lyles had moved to Plymouth, MA and purchased a small house at 174 Court Street. Their home was not far from the Knapp’s newly established Knapp School for Boys. Although Hagar and Harry Randall remained in Washington, DC, once widowed, Hagar spent time in Plymouth as well. She is part of the Lyles household in the 1880 US Census.

The Lyles raised five children. Jerry died in 1902; George Lyles in 1922.

Letter from Gershom Bradford, III to Duxbury Town Historian Dorothy Wentworth, September 27, 1971

Quite in contrast with the foregoing is the recent death in Plymouth of my friend of 50 years, a fine Negro, James Chester Lyle. He was 90 and his mother was a slave! I remember her, Jerry Lyle…The Randall family was owned by a doctor in Alexandria, VA. The old doctor would never allow a slave to be sold, but he died and his wife, ambitious and in need of money steeled herself and sold off several of the children.[8] The father was a free man. My uncle, Rev. Frederick Knapp afterwards got the mother, Aunt Hagar Randall, to tell him the story as he wrote it down. I have it. There were two girls about eleven who were put on the Auction Block, but Bruin, the auctioneer, or broker, decided that he would take these girls himself. He sent one of them down on his farm in Fauquier County. There, as the Civil War was on, the girls would drive the horses and cattle into the swamps whenever either of the armies came near.

At wars end they went down to the RR track and burned matches for the night train, got aboard and reached their old home in Alexandria. Everything was changed; they walked aimlessly until a man stopped them.

“Ain’t you Hagar Randall’s girls?”

“Yes, where is she?”

They were told that she was with a Knapp family in Washington (just back of the present Smithsonian Institute is now). They made their way over, were united with their mother and some of the children. There was not room in the house so they built a shanty in the back yard. To the Knapps they were known as the Contrabands.[9]

Mr. Knapp, after he had closed up his business with the Sanitary Commission, was called to Yonkers, Sutton and then to Plymouth in the 1870s. They brought one or both of those girls, Dick and Jerry – Dick being a girl. I never knew what became of Dick. Rachel, another sister, became the cook for friends of Mamie’s family. She spent most of her life with the Bonds.

In “The Home” of the Sanitary Commission, a convalescent hospital for soldiers preparing to go home, Aunt Charlotte, in her last service, was the matron.[10] Her right hand man, a Negro named George Lyle. He was devoted to her. In time, he made his way to Plymouth and later married Jerry [Randall]. When George came to Aunt Charlotte’s funeral at the Old house, I was standing by him when he tied his horse to a tree. He said that this was one of his saddest days. Jerry cooked dinner at the Knapp’s when General Grant visited Plymouth at the initiative of Mr. Knapp, who had him many times in the war.

“Chester,” her son, always was ready to help when we or the Knapps were in need of his services. Once in about 1921 I had an old car that needed repair. Chester and I worked on it all day. At five it was running. I asked him what I owed him. He hesitated saying, “I hate to take money from a Bradford or a Knapp.” When I felt badly on one trip North and not feeling like driving back, the Knapps got hold of Chester and he drove us down. So you will understand why I sent flowers to Plymouth.

Aunt Hagar’s story is deep in pathos. She showed no hate towards her mistress’ actions, not ranting against her. In fact, at times she seemed to feel sorry for her. It is a moving story…

1. Ann Maria (Powell) Powell (1800-1885), born in Leesburg, VA to Cuthbert Powell and Catherine Simms. She grew up on a grand estate called Llangollen. In 1820, she married her first cousin. Dr. William Leven Powell (1797-1853). He was a physician, a graduate of the Medical College at the University of Pennsylvania.

2. Sarah Perkins was a long-time family friend to the Knapps. She often lived and traveled with them..

3. Joseph Bruin’s Slave Jail was a two-story brick building located in Alexandria, VA.

4. Harry Randall, Hagar’s husband and the father of her children. According to some, he was born a free man. However, in a deposition taken during the Civil War regarding a stolen horse, Hagar explained that she and Harry were married according to the “custom of colored people in Virginia who were slaves. His master gave him permission to visit me and my master consented.” Together they had 13 children. Harry Randall appears in the 1870 US Census with Hagar, born c. 1790 in Virginia.

5. The John C. Fremont presidential campaign was in 1856. He was the first Republican candidate.

6. Elmer E. Ellsworth (1837-1861) was the first Union officer to die in the Civil War. He was killed while removing the Confederate flag from the Marshall House Inn in Alexandria, VA. 

7. Dr. Robert Conrad Powell (1838-1890). Began college at the University of Pennsylvania , but left when the Civil War began.  After the war was a graduate of the Medical Dept of the University of Baltimore, 1869.

8. The narrative of Hagar Randall says that she and three of her children (Mary Ellen, Rachel and Peter) were sold to Dr. Powell after the death of her original owner, Nancy Cockburn. Dick and Jerry were sold away from her at Joseph Bruin’s Slave Auction house. Two other children, Artemis and Frances, died at Bruin’s.

9. Contrabands was a term used to describe escaped slaves during the Civil War. 

10. Charlotte Bradford (1813-1893). Born in Duxbury to Capt. Gershom Bradford and Sally Hickling. Her life as a nurse is highlighted in her home, DRHS’ Bradford House Museum, 981 Tremont Street, Duxbury, MA. See also previous posts in this blog.

Rhimes Concerning the Throat Distemper


Rhimes Concerning the Throat Distemper, DAL.SMS.038

A small, very fragile book entitled “Rhimes Concerning the Throat Distemper” (c. 1750) is part of the collection of the Duxbury Rural & Historical Society’s Drew Archives. Its eight pages were once sewn together, but time and use has frayed the paper, loosening the book’s delicate binding. The title refers to a diphtheria epidemic that swept through southeastern Massachusetts in the mid-18thcentury. It was authored by Elkanah Parris (1728-1813) and copied by Duxbury resident, Reuben Peterson, Sr. (1710-1795).

Diphtheria, known in colonial times as “throat distemper,” is one of the childhood diseases we, very thankfully, have a vaccine for today. It affects the throat, making it difficult to breath. A horrific epidemic of diphtheria raged across New England in 1735-1736 taking thousands of lives, mostly children. The author of our poem was 12-years old at that time, so his “Rhime” refers to a later epidemic. He specifically mentions seven local towns:

“On every quarter of Bridgewater
With Pembroke & Kingston
It is among both old and young
A sweeping of them down

Its made great raks in Halifax
Through Raynham it did go
And then began upon Plympton
With Duxbury also

And it doth seize hard on all these
A cutting fellows down
But it hath been the hardest in
Bridgewater and Kingston”

Parris could have been writing of the throat distemper that struck in the summer of 1748. Kingston, MA truly was hard hit – at least eleven young people died within a few weeks, including five of Benjamin and Zerish Bradford’s children. But, the disease also reared its head again in 1750. By the 1760s Elkanah had moved to western Massachusetts so it is unlikely the poem refers to any illness after that time.

Because neither a cause nor a cure were known, Parris ascribed sin and a turning away from God’s law as the reason the disaster had befallen the community. He wrote, “For a disease on us doth seize / God’s anger it denotes / For this disease the Lord doth please / To send into our throats.” The remedy was a return to a more pious life.


Final page with name of Reuben Peterson and “Elkeny Parish”

Elkanah Parris (or, Elkeny Parish, as Peterson wrote it), was born in Pembroke, MA to Thomas Parris and Hannah Gannet. He married Grace Mott in Scituate in 1761 and moved to Williamstown, MA shortly thereafter. He eventually settled in Danby, VT where he died at age 84. It is curious that Reuben Peterson, Sr. took the time to painstakingly transcribe the poem. None of his ten children died from the disease, although perhaps they were stricken and recovered. Or, perhaps the illness was so prevalent he felt compelled to make his own copy of Parris’ verse. Reuben Peterson, Sr. married Rebecca Simmons and is the progenitor to a long-line of Duxbury Petersons. He died at age 85 and is buried in Mayflower Cemetery, Duxbury.

Rhimes Concerning the Throat Distemper

Come lend an ear & you shall hear
What hath been done of late
How God doth frown his judgement down
Which doth not yet abate

& now I lend I pray attend
Unto what I shal say
For God’s judgments abroad is sent
And spreadeth every way

For a disease on us doth seaze
God’s anger it denots
For this disease the Lord doth please
To send into our throats

This distemper now doth enter
Into our inwards parts
& it doth seaze where God doth please
and pierce the tender heart 

The doctors join with one desine
And study day and night
To find its course & learn its sorce
Tis far beyond their sight

Let us submit to God in it
And bless the taking hand
Consider he gave them to the
And none can him withstand

For Job of old how did he hold
A strange integraty
Though he was speared from end to end
Yet bore it patiently

None can withstand his holy hand
No not the strongest one
Nor the richest stand in least
For he God alone

We must obey what God doth say
When he says we must die
In joy or pain we must remain
To all eternity

God doth not spare the young and fare
Though they be stronge and brave
Youthful delits and beauty brights
Now rooting in the grave

A mournful sound that doth abound
These seven towns do cry
In sorrows deep parents do weep
Because their children die

On every quarter of Bridgewater
With Pembroke & Kingstown
It is among both old and young
A sweeping of them down

Its made great raks in Halifax
Through Rainham it did go
And then began upon Plymton
With Duxbury also

And it doth seaze hard on all these
A cuting fellows down
But it hath been the hardest in
Bridgewater and Kingstown

Come dread and fear what you do hear
What God the Lord hath don
For you don’t know how soon youl
Go the way that they have gone

The young and spry do often die
While they are in their prime
God orders so man cannot know
His true appointed time

Tis not the worst that do die first
As people do surmise
Nor do the best live the longest
But fools die with the wise

Now man can see how frail we be
The wise cannot find it
God ends our days in many ways
As he alone sees fit

Small cords and veins in us remain
On which mans life doth lie
When with the stroke the heart is broke
How suddenly we die

Without Gods leav we cannot breath
For he doth give us breath
He giveth ease to home please
Or bringeth unto Deth

But God doth say all the great day
We all shall rise again
All saints say he shall blessed be
From sickness and from pain

The life of man is but a span
And prime will fade away
Therfore repent before its spent
And learn to read and pray

It is needless for us to dress
A carcase for the worm
Or to prepare find gold to wear
Upon uncertain terms

Do not be sure despise pore
Since God hath chosen these 
And rich in faith the Seriphins saith
Shall have eternal ease

You that as helth enjoy your wealth
Can little think or know
The misery and poverty
Poor people undergo

The poor mans cry goes up on high
To heaven it shall reach
But God the Lord will not regard
A person of the rich

Do not oppress the fatherless
To widows have regard
For such as are afflicted here
Are chosen of the Lord

You that oppress the fatherless
Transgress God’s holy law
For they shall cry to God on high
And he shall plead their caus

For if so be God plead with the spent
For these under his rod
Your arguements shall soon be
For who can plead with God

Render to all boath great and small
Sufficient honnour due
Dount lauf all thoes that none bore close
Since God made them and you

Who doth fulfill his holy will
Whose anger now stepars
Whose grate judgments I now send
With bitter groans and tears

When God doth call tall cedars fall
Ye they be strong and great
Thearfor repent with one concent
Before it be too late

This sore sickness seemeth endless
We know not when twill stop
With drouth & derth upon the Earth
Our fields are dryed up

Our children die our fields go dry
The Drouth hath not yet seas
A sore judgement the Lord hath
Sent upon both man and beast

I pray you now consider how
Young people die away
And lend an ear with Godly
Fear to what these judgments say

Judgements at hand upon the land
Now in these better days
Which is a call to one and all
To think upon their ways

Come let us pray both night
& day that this disease may sease
that God may send helth in the
land and let us die in peace

Let all good men learn their
Children to serve the Lord on high
And out of love sharply reprove
Remember old Elie

Elis children ware wicked men
And he restrained them not
So he and they died in one day
When God’s anger was hot

Children honnour your dear father
And mother in the Lord
And God will be kind unto thee
The scriptures doth record

Be sure you give ear unto
Your father more than Gold
In any wise do not despise
Your mother when she is old

The scriptures saith whose cuseth
His father more or less
His lamp no doubt shall be put out
In obscure darkness

Children obay what parents say
For this is well pleasing
Unto the lord who will afford
His children any thing

Good Elisha went on his way
Bethel he was bound to
Little children mocked him
Go up thou bald head go

But in Gods name he cursed them
For their great ill manners
So God prepared too raging bars
Which tear these wicked sinners

God cutteth short their wicked sport
That do despise good men
Don’t mock nor xx sense God cuts short
All such wicked children

Let us begin to flee from sin
Since by it Adam fell
Lest God sends deth & stop our breth
And sink us down to Hell

Liv to Gods xx in youthful days
In studying of his word
For youth and prime is the best
Time to fear and serve the Lord

Be sure to take care to live in prase
That virtue may not sease
And spend your days in wisdom ways
For all her path are pease

Satan will say you may delay
Till pleasures are all past
And then come in & so may sin
All happiness at last

But he that obeys what satan says
Till pleasures are all past
May well expect for his next
To dwell in hell at last

Those that have been a slave to sin
And never did refrain
Will find it hard to serve the Lord
When they return again

Do not delay another day
Least God should cut you down
Death may be sent in a moment
To sink you under ground

And then in hell your soul may dwell
With all your sinful friends
You may be sent in a moment
To fire with an end

Where wrath & crys will be on us
With burnings flaims of fire
Charning & cries that shall arise
Under his wrath and ire

Come read & pray every day
And grow in grace and truth
And fear the Lord & read his word
While you are in your youth

When you die your soul will fly
To God upon the throne
To God above that lives in Love
Among his holy ones

When all your fears & all your tears
Shall be wiped away
With lasting praise that never delays
But lasteth night and day

When night and day is past away
We all shall raised be
Where for more cares and fleshly snares
Shall never come on thee

In holy and trew delits
Where there shall be no night
Which is a place of truth & rest
For God shall be [torn page]


Written by Reuben Peterson
Whose author was Elkeny Parish

This little book if hearin you do look
You will confess its truth
The Lord to fear and love most dear
While thou are in your youth

Aunt Sarah Mac: Duxbury’s Cantankerous Poetess


Carte de visite of Aunt Sarah Mac, c. 1851

You did not want to get on the wrong side of Sarah McFarland (or McFarlin). She had a biting wit which she often delivered, on the spot, in rhyme. Despite her occasional caustic outbursts, however, she was a respected and much loved member of the community.  The memory of both her poems and good deeds far outlived her – making her a Duxbury icon for generations.

Aunt Sarah Mac, as she was widely known, was born in 1739 to William McFarland and Sarah Peterson. She received a public school education, such that is was for girls of the time, and proceeded to become a teacher herself. She remained unmarried and occupied a small house in the Millbrook area of town (near the corner Tremont and Alden Streets). As an older woman she was recognizable to all by her red cloak and black bonnet. To supplement her meagre income, she sold eggs, berries and milk from her cow, Blossom. She also often helped neighbors with the housekeeping and child care. In 1829 poverty forced her into the Alms House where she later died in 1831, at the age of 91.

She must have been exceptionally adept at the English language because she boasted that she could “answer every question put to her in rhyme.”[1] Anecdotes of her life and her poetry were resurrected in 1851 in Sarah Macs Budget, a newspaper issued as a vehicle to raise money for a monument to Rev. John Allyn, the town’s former minister. Its six pages, edited by Mrs. Ann Porter, the wife of Duxbury’s town doctor, John Porter, contained Sarah’s writing as well as reminiscences from those who still recalled her.  The Drew Archival Library has copies of the paper as well as Sarah’s original compositions in her own hand.

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Page of Sarah Mcfarland’s poetry, c. 1824

The following are a few examples of her poems:

When she was caught picking cranberries on private property she responded:

I am on old woman, seventy-one,
Cranberry law has just begun – 
Men make laws but I don’t mind ’em
I pick cranberries where I find ’em

When asked to live with a married man who had separated from his wife, she retorted:

To tell you the truth, I’m not like Ruth
Who’s gone to live with Sam Darling
If you expect to have me, disappointed you’ll be,
As long as I’m Sarah Macfarlin.
For be it known, I’d rather live alone
All the days of my life,
Than to have a man, if I know that I can
Who has got another wife
You’ve had a virtuous bride and you’ve set
her aside
And I think you’re a simple man –
But since it is so, it is best you should know,
You may get another if you can.

Her poetry also recognized deeper social issues, such as progress and the role of women. After visiting the new woolen factory in Duxbury she composed the following:

On the First Factory in the Town of Duxbury
And the only one I shall ever see
King Solomon says there was no new thing done,
Not in his day under the sun;
But if he was to come here, and take a full view.
Then he would avert there was something new.
Every generation grows wiser and wiser,
Except here and there a sordid old miser;
Sirs! I like this new way of carding and spinning;
It is a brave thing to favor the women –
And it is a thing that men ought to do;
Had it not been for the women, there would have been none of you.
And the Factory again, when I went to see them spin,
I may say with the Queen of Sheba of old,
That the half of your wisdom never was told;
You exceed Solomon in all his glory,
And I think I have told you a very true story;
And now, I suppose, very glad you would be,
If you had as many women as he :
But if they should come here to help you spin yarn,
I hope you’ll take care that you do them no harm;
For the very first yarn that ever was spun,
By weak hearted women it was then done;
Though they had not found out such a wonderful way,
To spin so may skeins in a day –
Yet, every woman she did her part,
To spin a covering for the Ark
You have another aim in view, as I do suppose.
You are spinning to have new to make yourselves clothes.
You do very well, sirs, they say to the least,
So, I wish you all prosperity and peace;
And it is my sincere desire,
That your factory may not take fire,
As some have done of late,
Which is a loss to the whole State –

Her will demonstrates she could be as kind as she was cantankerous. A portion reads as follows:

August the 24th AD 1824 BE IT KNOWN unto all Men whom it may concern that whereas I Sarah Mackfarland now of Duxbury having arrived at the age of eighty four the third day of last June and expect to die very soon have thought fit to leave these lines was my last will that ever may be found after my Body is laid under the ground and it is my will that my funeral may attended at the Meetinghouse and that I be buried as near the grave of my dear mother as may be room found. Now I shall dispose of my property…by virtue of this will give my under bed a straw bed with all the bed clothes and my wearing clothes to those Single Women in Duxbury Almshouse every woman that has no husband shall have an equal share and after my lawful debts and funeral charges are paid out of the purchase of my Household Stuff if there is anything left to the overplus if there be any I freely give to the Reverend Doctor John Allen my minister.

sarah mac headstone001

Sarah McFarland’s headstone in Mayflower Cemetery, Duxbury, MA

There were no funds at the time of her death to place a marker at her grave in Duxbury’s Mayflower Cemetery. Years later, some of her former pupils, including Capt. Gershom Bradford of our Bradford House Museum, erected a stone in her honor.









[1] “Sarah Mac,” Duxbury Clipper Anniversary Issue, May 8, 1975.

Fanny Lee: Girl Soldier in the Civil War

fanny lee001

Letter written by Fanny Lee, Bradford Family Collection

Fanny Lee, whose real name was Fannie E. Chamberlain, was one of the hundreds of women who enlisted to fight in the Civil War. She was 18 when she disguised herself as a boy and joined the 6th Ohio Cavalry alongside her cousin, George. She would have seen action in Virginia during the winter of 1863-1864.

It is unclear how she was discovered, or even her full story. Fanny seemed to be an expert at subterfuge. She told Charlotte and Lucia Bradford, nurses from Duxbury, that she was Fanny Lee, a war widow with no friends. They seemed to believe she was forced to leave the Army once her ruse was discovered. Lucia wrote in her notes, “a young woman taken from the army is sent here by the Provost Marshall.” However,  The Daily Ohio Statesman, a Columbus, OH, newspaper, claimed “she announced herself, disgusted with life as a trooper.” Whether she left of her own accord or was accidentally discovered, she was ill at the time and needed care. Not able to be treated at an all-male Union Army Hospital, she was sent to the United States Sanitary Commission’s Home for Wives and Mothers. It was here she met matron Charlotte Bradford and her sister, Lucia.

Fanny wanted to become a nurse and continue to serve her country, but the US Army wanted nothing more to do with a woman who had so “unsexed herself.” Once well enough to travel, she returned to Ohio. Shortly thereafter, Charlotte received a letter from her former patient. Fanny, with her hair growing out, had traded in her soldiers uniform for good and married John J. Butts in Summit, Ohio on July 28, 1864.

In her letter she wrote, “The soldier girl is now a soldier for life in the Brigade of

Fanny Lee002

Excerpt from Fanny’s (Fannie) Letter

The full transcription follows:

[illegible] Summit Co Ohio
August 20th 1864

Dear Friend

I wrote to you soon after I returned but receiving no answer I came to the conclusion that you had not received it I wrote twice to Mrs. Doresay before I received an answer. I have just received one form her in which she says it is the first time she has heard from me. I am now married to a young man of my acquaintance here I will send you a paper with my…[missing page]

…in the man for whom I procured a discharge is my cousin. I have often thought of you dear friend and of your sister and the many kind friends in Washington. I feel that I am greatly indebted to the Sanitary Commission and the kind people connected with it.

I have lost all my hair and the new has come out to about a inch long it is so very dark so almost as it was colored all the time of my masquerade in soldier attire. The weather is considerable cooler here then in Washington. I am very anxious to hear from you please write all the news I would like to know if any body was there to see me after I went away. Has Mrs. Vassar been there if there is any letters there for me please send them to my present address.

I hope you will write soon and not wait as long as I have it was not my fault for I wrote to you before I wrote six or seven letters and sent them to the Post-Office by a boy and I think now that he never mailed them at all. I am in better health than I was when I left Washington. Give my love to your sister and remember me to all my acquaintances there. Tell Mr. Wood that I never shall forget their kindness, do not forget to remember me to Valentine. I must now close my letter hoping it will find you all well as it leaves me. From you war loving friend.

Fanny E. Butts

P.S. You see that Lee was only an assumed name. You will see by the paper what my real name is.

Yours Truly
Fannie Lee

The soldier girl is now a soldier for life in the Brigade of Matrimony. Do you have as much fun or noise there as when I was there I suppose Mrs. Cornwall was glad to get rid of me.


Parker F. Soule: Three Years a Cowboy

Letter from Parker F. Soule to his brother, Winthrop P. Soule, soon after arriving in Denver, Co. Oct. 19, 1882.

Letter from Parker F. Soule to his brother, Winthrop P. Soule, soon after arriving in Denver, Colorado. Oct. 19, 1882.

In October, 1882 a frail young man named Parker Fernando Soule checked into the St. James Hotel in Denver, Colorado. He was thin, just over 130 pounds, and most likely exhausted from his long and arduous journey from Boston. He had come, like thousands of Easterners before him, to find relief from the debilitating symptoms of tuberculosis. Known at the time as consumption because it slowly seemed to consume its victims, the disease had no known cure. Doctors, believing the arid climate of Colorado would alleviate their patients’ suffering and perhaps prolong their life, prescribed them to go west and rest.

At the time of his diagnosis, Parker was just twenty years old. It appears he was first sent to a sanatorium in New Hampshire, but this must have proved unsuccessful. Prior to that time he had spent most of his life in the towns surrounding Boston. He was born in 1861 to Lawrence P. Soule and Mercie B. Eldridge in Foxboro. His father, a native of Duxbury, MA, soon moved the family to Lawrence, MA where he became a successful mason and contractor. After the Great Fire of 1872 in Boston, Lawrence Soule relocated his family to Cambridge, MA where he could more easily become involved in the rebuilding of the capital city. In 1879 the Soules moved into a substantial brick house at 11 Russell Road in North Cambridge that still stands today and is on the National Historic Register. Parker and his siblings, Winthrop, Laura and Florence (Daisy) had all been well educated and, judging by the number of party invitations they received, quite popular. His illness must have been a shattering blow to this close-knit family.

After only a few days in Denver, Parker traveled to Colorado Springs. He found a place to stay with another Boston family who had moved to the area only the year before. Henry Webster Pope, like Parker, was suffering from consumption. He had brought his wife, son and brother, Abbott, to Colorado Springs and started the Pope Brothers Ranch. Parker wrote his own brother that he was keeping quiet, resting and had gained weight. He was looking to buy a horse for the winter although he thought it best not to try to work for a month or two. By Christmas he was healthy enough to work the “milk run” alongside Abbott Pope and was “feeling first-rate.”

Within eight months of his arrival in Colorado, Parker F. Soule was a new man. The dry western climate had seemingly cured him of tuberculosis. His tan, fit 160-pound frame would have been unrecognizable to his family back home. While he despaired that he had not earned much money, he wrote his brother, “I have secured in a great degree what I am out here for – my health. I never felt better I am sure in my life…” It was at this point that Parker also became a true cowboy. He had herded sheep on the Pope Brothers ranch and found it a distasteful occupation. But herding cattle was another matter altogether. The life suited him perfectly. He went out with the cows by 7am, came home to dinner at noon and then headed back out to “round them up” and bring them back to the corral. Often he was required to “cut out” a wild steer or bull, using his newly acquired riding skills. While out with the herd he would  lie in the grass or read while his pony grazed nearby. His day was usually done by 4:30pm. He also became adept at breaking in wild colts.

Instructions from Selden J. Richards to Parker F. Soule with brands to be found at the South Park Round Up, 1885.

Instructions from Selden J. Richards to Parker F. Soule with brands to be found at the South Park Round Up, 1885.

His talent as a cowboy and his overall health can be judged by his leading the South Park Round up for the Grand County Cattle and Land Company in July of 1885. Cattle at this time were left to graze freely over a vast range, miles wide, during the winter months. Left to their own devises, cattle from various herds would become mixed together. Round ups occurred in the spring or early summer months when the cattle would be separated once again and driven home. Brands allowed cowboys to pick out those cows that belonged to their ranch. Any new calves would be branded at this time as well. The list supplied by Selden J. Richards, Parker’s employer, shows just how many brands needed to be recognized in order to separate individual cattle from a herd of thousands. After the round up, Parker may have gone to find lost cows that had wandered as far as the Blue and Grand Rivers, twenty miles away.

It was during this time that Parker’s older brother, Winthrop, made a visit. The brothers had not seen each other in almost three years. Not only had Parker changed physically but his bearing must have been different as well. The youth that had come out west as an emaciated store clerk was now a hale and hearty cowboy, familiar with riding over rough country and sleeping under the stars. Perhaps forgetting that his brother spent his days behind a desk, Parker at first directed Winthrop to get a saddle, “put on a flannel shirt and an old pair of breeches and come along” to the round up. As though realizing the unsuitability of this request, Parker amended his instructions in the same letter, writing, “the more I think of you going to Fairplay, the less I like the plan…I think the best way will be for you to come to the Springs and to Pope’s Ranch and wait for me …”

Winthrop Soule was impressed enough with what he saw that he seriously considered going into the cattle business with his younger brother. In a letter dated Sept. 21, 1885 from Boston he asked Parker to let him know if the plan was feasible. It was apparently not. Instead, Parker returned to Massachusetts by the end of 1885. The reason for his giving up his life in Colorado is a mystery, although love may have had something to do with it. It is just as well that brothers did not invest in their own ranch. The harsh winter of 1886-1887 caused what is known as the “Big Die-Up” of cattle which killed 90% of the herds, millions of cows. The mild winters experienced during Parker’s time in Colorado had led ranchers to erroneously believe that cattle could survive foraging on their own across the plains during the winter months. When the severe winter left feet of snow on the plains and temperatures well below freezing, the cows starved. Encroaching civilization, overgrazing and an economic downturn also contributed to the collapse of many firms. Ranching, as Parker had known it, became a thing of the past.

Summer homes of Parker F. Soule and Lawrence P. Soule at xxx and xxx Powder Point Ave., Duxbury, MA.

Summer homes of Parker F. Soule and Lawrence P. Soule at 236 and 244 Powder Point Ave., Duxbury, MA. Built 1897-1899.

Parker F. Soule was married on February 25, 1886 to Luceba Dorr Kingsley, the daughter of wealthy politician and philanthropist, in Cambridge, MA. Two days later, on his ranch in Colorado Springs, Parker’s former host, Herbert W. Pope, succumbed to the disease that Parker had so fantastically evaded. Parker would not take his second-chance at life for granted. In 1887 he joined his father in business and together, as L. P. Soule and Son, they were responsible for constructing many of the buildings that dotted the Boston city skyline, including the Shawmut National Bank, the First National Bank, the Commonwealth Trust and the Boston Stock Exchange Building. Some of the beautiful Boston Back Bay and Brookline homes of the era were built by them as well. Parker and his first wife had one daughter, Priscilla Bradford Soule (1897-1986). After Luceba’s death, Parker married Julia Ann Whitten in 1904. Together they had Parker F. Soule, Jr. (1907-1975) Lawrence P. Soule, II (1909-1959) and Julianna W. Soule (1912-1969). The family lived at 49 Hawthorne Street in Cambridge but during the summer months they spent time at their vacation compound on Powder Point Avenue in Duxbury, MA on land that Parker’s progenitor, the Pilgrim George Soule, had once owned. Defying all odds, Parker F. Soule lived to be eighty-nine years old, dying in 1950. He is buried along with his family in Mayflower Cemetery in Duxbury.


Letter cited are found in the Parker F. Soule Collection.





News of Lincoln’s Assasination in the Drew Archival Library

New York Herald, April 15, 1865. Bradford Family Collection.

New York Herald, April 15, 1865. Bradford Family Collection.

One hundred and fifty years ago today, April 15, 1865, many American’s awoke to the news that President Lincoln had been shot in Ford’s Theater the night before. In the Drew Archives’ collections we have a number of journals and letters that speak of this tragic event. Some written days after, when the news finally filtered to those far afield. Lincoln’s death was devastating to many Northerners, especially coming so close on the heels of the joyous celebrations following the surrender at Appomattox.

Captain Edward Baker was at sea when the assassination occurred. His journal entry for the April 15th, not surprisingly, makes no mention of the shooting. On April 19th Baker and his crew received papers bearing the news of Lee’s surrender ten days before. Baker wrote, “such glorious news is almost overpowering. My greatest desire, to tell the truth, was to go away by myself and have a long hearty cry, that was the way I was affected.”  After this entry, the pages in this journal were full. His next journal entry begins in a new book and is dated April 24th, 1865:

Capt. Edward Baker diary page, April 1865. Capt. Edward Baker Collection.

Capt. Edward Baker diary page, April 1865. Capt. Edward Baker Collection.

“This day our souls have been harrowed up as seldom in a lifetime, as great national calamities affect people. The “Katahdin” came in with her flag at half mast, and we soon learned that Abraham Lincoln had been assassinated!!! Shot through the head, in Ford’s theatre!! Secretary Seward while lying on a sick bed, had his throat cut, but he was no killed…a terrible and overwhelming affair.”

Like Captain Baker, brothers Gershom and Laurence Bradford did not hear of the tragedy on the 15th, but days later. Twenty-three year old Laurence was in the Navy and had spent April 15th in Richmond, VA, witnessing the somber mood of the citizens of that Southern capitol as General Lee rode through the streets. On the 16th Laurence visited Fort Darling and made no mention of the President’s death. It wasn’t until days later that he learned exactly what had occurred:

Journal of Laurence Bradford, Bradford Family Collection

Journal of Laurence Bradford, Bradford Family Collection

“Sailed for Fortress Monroe where we arrived on the morning of the 17th. Carried down orders for every vessel to commence and fire a gun every half hour from sunrise to sunset, in honor of the president.

April 18, 1865 Tuesday. First got the particulars of the president’s death – that he was assassinated by J W Booth in Ford’s theatre Washington.”

Laurence described the scene in Norfolk, VA on April19th, the day of Lincoln’s funeral:

“the city was draped in mourning – everywhere was the grief of the people apparent in sorrow for the death, and in respect for the memory – of this preserver of the Republic. Whose confidence in his abilities and admiration for his character, had twice given him their greatest gift.”

Gershom Bradford, Laurence’s older brother, served in the U. S. Coastal Survey during the Civil War. From April 15th – 18th Gershom was busy repairing vessels and doing other assigned tasks in South Carolina. On the 19th, in Charleston Harbor, he wrote the following mention in his pocket diary:

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Gershom Bradford II Journal, Bradford Family Collection

“Heard of President’s death. Minute guns fired.”

Charlotte Bradford was the Matron of the United States Sanitary Commission’s Home for Wives and Mothers in Washington, DC when she received the news. She did not record events every day, so it is not surprising that it took her over a week before she wrote of Lincoln’s death:

Charlotte  Lincoln death002

Diary of Charlotte Bradford (2), Bradford Family Collection

“April 28. The President murdered and buried. I believe there never has been a person so universally lamented. All the black material in the city used in a few hours to drape the houses. Immense crowds to see the body and at the funeral. In N. York there were said to be 150,000 went in to look at the corpse.”

Finally, in a letter dated April 30th, Eden Sampson of Duxbury wrote to his son, Sgt. Horace E. Sampson, of the death of Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth:

Excerpt from Eden Sampson Letter, April 30, [1865], Cushman Family Collection

Excerpt from Eden Sampson Letter, April 30, [1865], Cushman Family Collection

“That Damned Scamp of a Booth has come to his end and I am glad he is dead. If he had bin cort alive he wold have cost the Country a pile money so that thing settled up on a square…”