A Letter for the Day

The Mid-Atlantic states may be reeling from a bout of cold, snowy weather but 194 years ago Capt. Jonathan Smith was experiencing similar conditions.   In the following letter, Capt. Smith writes home to his wife, Zilpha Drew Smith as he awaits cargo in Baltimore. 

Baltimore, February 17th, 1816

My Dear Wife,

I suppose that you will begin to look for a letter by the time you receive this, I have nothing new to write, the prospect for freight is small, we have not had any offer.  Today we have advertised the ship for Gibraltar.  Mr. Thompson says that he will put in 500 barrels of Flour, & we must put as much more if we can get the remainder on freight.  I expect to have a letter from Capt. Reuben [Drew] in 2 or 3 days & likewise one from Charles [Drew], then I shall conclude on something.  I have sold about 60 ton of plants at $11.50.  I suppose you would like to know how I spend my time, I go to town, which is about 1 mile in general about 9 am, & return about 12, & sometimes I take a trip up there in the afternoon.  The remainder of the time I spend on board of the ship.  The evening after supper which is about dark Mr. Chandler & Mr. Soul go or stroll off and I am left alone.  I have spent one evening at Mr. Ramsay’s, a ship chandler.  That is the only house I have been in.  Mr. Chandler has spent 2 evenings on board, the remainder I have been alone.  I sit by the stove as it has been very cold & read a little & think a little, and be assured that you and the boys have their share of my thoughts.  At 9 or a little before or after, I go to bed.  I thank kind Heaven that I enjoy good health, except I have rather a bad taste in my mouth. I expect that my stomach is rather foul.  It has been very cold.  The 14th and 15th it froze the harbor over, say 3 inches thick.  Last night the snow fell about 6 inches deep & at 8 this morning it commenced raining and has rained very hard all of the fore noon.  It is 1/2 past 12.  I must leave off to dinner.  My love to you and the boys and all of our Friends.

I remain your Dear Husband,
Jonathan Smith

The Drew Archives will be reading letters written by Capt. Jonathan Smith and his family on March 18 at 7pm.

Volunteer Opportunity – Photographs

I am looking for a volunteer to assist with a scanning project.  The volunteer would scan cased photographs, carte de visites and cabinet cards for the Drew Archival Library’s next photographic exhibit.  If you are somewhat computer savvy, like peace and quiet and enjoy old photographs, this is the job for you.  No experience is necessary.

The project will take approximately 5 hours and can be done over multiple days.   

The Drew Archival Library is open Monday-Friday, 9am – 1pm.  However, I am here until 2:45 on many days.  If you are a high school student who is interested in this project, other arrangements can be made.

The Story of Antoinette Knowles

If you believe “there are no coincidences,” then here is a tale for you. 

A couple of months ago Mattie Ali, the Chair of the DRHS’ Costume Committee, asked me to find out anything I could about a 19th century girl who possibly lived in town.  Mattie had a dress in the Costume Collection that had a curious tag sewn inside.  Although the dress had been owned by Margie Sampson, the tag indicated that it had once been worn by “Antoinette Knowles.” 

After reviewing the Census Records, Vital Statistics and other genealogical material, I found that Antoinette Knowles was indeed a native of Duxbury.  She was born Jan. 18, 1837 to Samuel Knowles and Lucia Ann Sampson (this connection made her Margie Sampson’s cousin).  In 1862 she married George Frederick Tileston of Boston.  Shortly after their marriage, George was killed in the 2nd Battle of Bull Run on Aug. 29, 1862.  Two months later the couples’ only child, also named George, was born.  

The widowed Antoinette lived with her parents in South Duxbury and can be found with her son in the 1870 and 1880 US Census Records.  She died on Feb. 11, 1899 and is buried in the Mayflower Cemetery. 

I sent Mattie this information and closed the book on Antoinette Knowles…until just the other day.  As I was preparing material to show the local Brownie and Girl Scout troops I began looking through our identified cased photograph collection.  The collection is currently uncataloged so there is no easy way to search it – the process involves delicately opening each case to see who is inside.

Antionette Knowles, c. 1845
Antoinette Knowles, c. 1847

I was specifically searching for daguerrotypes of young girls.  Almost immediately I came across one – a young girl sitting, holding what appears to be a fan.  Based on the simple design of the gold frame I surmised that the photograph was a particularily old example.  As I read the tiny, folded piece of paper identifying the subject of the image I almost fell over.  It was “Antoinette Knowles, born Jan. 1837.”

 There are no coincidences.