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
Matrimony.”

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.

Fannie

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:

Gersh Lincoln 2 death001

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…”

Charlotte Williams Hemenway: Runaway Slave Aboard the Ship Plato

Carolyn Ravenscroft, Archivist

Except of letter written by Capt. Jonathan Smith to Zilpah Smith, July 29, 1816. DAL.MSS.021

Excerpt of letter written by Capt. Jonathan Smith while in Baltimore to his wife, Zilpah Smith, July 29, 1816. DAL.MSS.021

The story of Charlotte Williams Hemenway, a runaway slave (or indentured servant), captured and jailed in Baltimore, MD in 1816 is one that you have probably not heard.  In fact, if it were not for a brief mention of her tale in a letter written by Captain Jonathan Smith (1780-1843) to his wife, Zilpah Drew Smith, found in the Smith McLaughlin Collection, her story might have been lost. The following is an excerpt from that letter, dated July 29, 1816:

“…I am going to tell you a romantic tale that will rather surprise you as it is founded on facts, I suppose that you recollect the boy that I shipped to go in the Plato after the war, that I told you left me in Baltimore, if you recollect his name was Charles Hemenway, that same person was discovered to be a girl & was put in jail for a runaway where she now is. [1] I have been before a Justice & gave my opinion that she was free, & there is Quaker here that is endeavoring to get her out of jail. She says that her name is Charlotte Williams Hemenway. You may depend that I was not a little surprised to see him metamorphed, he had made one voyage from here to the West Indies. I hope that the poor thing will get clear for she is in a bad [torn page]. It is really funny that I should ship a woman for a man, I will look out better for the time to come…”[2]

Capt. Jonathan Smith House, built 1822. 18 St. George Street, Duxbury, MA

Capt. Jonathan Smith House, built 1822. 18 St. George Street, Duxbury, MA

There is not much to go on in this story to help ascertain Charlotte’s origins or even whether she was black or white. There are clues that could lead to either conclusion. In an earlier letter, written June 15, 1814, Smith mentioned the slaves he saw in Charleston, SC. His opinion of them was not very high. Not knowing the make-up of his crew, I can’t say whether he was more open minded when it came to freedmen as sailors, but had Charles/Charlotte been of African descent, it seems probable that Smith would have mentioned it to his wife. On the other hand, indentured servitude was not as wide-spread in the early 19th century as it had been during the colonial period. If Charlotte were merely a white servant, she would have been able to blend easily into Baltimore – making it far less likely that she would have been caught. It is also curious that a Quaker would trouble themselves with an indentured servant. So, the jury is still out, but my best guess is she was a runaway slave or, according to her, being mistaken for one.

Whatever her heritage and reason for bondage, there is one thing that is perfectly clear, Charlotte Williams Hemenway was a remarkable woman – both clever and brave.  To have disguised herself as a man and shipped out on the Plato, an 87 foot vessel, for weeks without her true sex being revealed is the stuff of adventure stories.

My hope is that this article will find its way onto the computer screen of someone who has more information on Charlotte Hemenway , perhaps a researcher or descendent,  and we will learn the rest of her story.

[1] Plato was a ship built in Duxbury in 1811. The master carpenter was Charles Drew (brother-in-law of Capt. Jonathan Smith). It was owned by Reuben Drew (another brother-in-law), Charles Drew, Jonathan Smith and Joshua Magoon.  It was used as a merchant vessel, making frequent voyages to European markets.  After the Drews sold her, the Plato became a whaling vessel and wrecked in 1842 off of Montauk, NY.

[2] I have transcribed the letter with corrected punctuation and spelling. The original writing can be seen in the photograph accompanying this blog article.

Annie Laurie Williams – Red Cross Nurse

Annie Laurie Williams, 1914

Annie Laurie Williams, 1914

Carolyn Ravenscroft, Archivist

On this Veterans Day it was difficult to choose a subject from the many stories of service to our country by Duxbury’s men and women. Much has been written about our brave soldiers, so I thought I would shed light on a woman, Annie Laurie Williams. Williams was a dedicated Red Cross nurse who served in the Eastern European theater at the end of the first World War.

Medal awarded to Annie Laurie Williams by King Peter of Serbia.

Medal awarded to Annie Laurie Williams by King Peter of Serbia. Collection of Duxbury Rural & Historical Society

She was born in Rhinebeck, NY in 1879 but spent thirty-nine years in Duxbury so I think we can claim her as one of our own. When WWI broke out, Williams was already an established aid worker. She had served as matron on Ellis Island and as a nurse in its hospital. [1] Nothing she had witnessed helping the immigrant poor in New York, however, would have prepared her for the hardships she faced in war torn Europe. In 1919 she was sent to Siberia to assist with refugee children displaced by the Russian Revolution. While there she lived in a box car apartment and experienced temperatures 73 degrees below zero.  In Omsk, a town in southwestern Siberia, she had a run in with a Russian soldier whom she punched in the jaw twice when he attempted to enter a railroad car of female refugees. [2]  Williams came home to the US in 1920, but returned to Europe the following year to assist with orphan relief in war ravaged Serbia, establishing clinics and nursing  children.  For these efforts she was awarded a medal of the Order of St. Sava by the Serbian king, Peter.  During her Red Cross tenure she also received a medal of merit by the Serbian Red Cross and a silver belt buckle from Russian Cossaks.

Award given to Annie Laurie Williams from Serbian Red Cross, 1920

Award from Serbian Red Cross, 1920. Annie Laurie William Collection, Drew Archival Library

In 1922 she settled down to a quiet life Duxbury – census records show her renting for a time on both Washington and Harrison Streets. She worked as the school nurse for many years and also taught basic first-aid. Each year she rode in in the 4th of July parade and was an honored participant in Duxbury’s Tercentenary celebration in 1937. The Drew Archives has a wonderful album she created of photographs and memorabilia from this year-long event.   Annie Laurie Williams died in 1961, at the age of 82, in the Jones River Nursing Home in Kingston. She is buried in the Mayflower Cemetery.

The Duxbury Rural & Historical Society gives thanks to all the men and women who have served our country.

 

 

 

[1] Annie L. Williams Obituary from Duxbury Clipper, Feb. 2, 1961

[2] http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/04/21/red-cross-nurse-throws-down-with-russian-bully/ accessed Nov. 11, 2014.

More on the Bradford Cookbook

Lucia Alden Bradford (1807-1893).

Lucia Alden Bradford (1807-1893).

Carolyn Ravenscroft, Archivist

I have mentioned the19th century cookbook (c. 1860-1890) created by Lucia Alden Bradford and her sisters in this blog before, but I couldn’t resist bringing it out once again.[1]  It is such a wonderful piece of history – a compilation of popular recipes copied from a variety of sources, including neighbors and the Ladies Almanac. The book is meticulously laid out, with chapters for Cakes and Puddings, Meats, Vegetables and “other useful Receipts of various kinds.” There is even an index.  I can only imagine the creation of this little book was a labor of love – gathering and organizing the many snippets of paper and magazine clippings that had accumulated over a lifetime.  When a recipe originated with a friend, her name is properly given.  The writing is mostly in Lucia’s neat and recognizable penmanship. Some recipes were obviously added later and these are written in the loose scrawl of a hand that had seen almost ninety years of use.

I could not tell you my favorite recipe. I am not a great cook and many of the ingredients are foreign to my modern eyes (and taste buds). In many instances there are no cooking directions as we’d expect to find today – no oven settings or baking times. Of course, 19th century hearths and later wood stoves didn’t come with temperature gauges or timers so cooks had to know their own equipment. Other recipes are incredibly explicit, e.g. I feel confident I could cure a ham if I had a freshly slaughtered pig, a smokehouse and about two months.

There is one recipe that stood out from all the others on this rainy day – Coffee. Americans today require their coffee to come at them quickly, waiting for a cup of Joe is a thing of the past. Who under the age of forty even remembers coffee percolating on the stove or could now suffer the more than ten minutes it took for it to boil and brew?  Imagine then, if creating Lucia Bradford’s perfect cup was part of your morning routine:

Coffee recipe from Bradford Cookbook

Coffee recipe from Bradford Cookbook

“For Making Coffee”

Beat an egg – 2 for a large pot & mix it well with the coffee till you have formed a ball – fill the pot with cold water allowing room enough for the ingredients – let it simmer very gently for an hour – do not stir it on any account – just before it is required put the pot on the fire & warm it well, but take care that it does not boil – pour it off gently & you will have a pure & strong extract of the coffee – use white sugar & cream if attainable, if not, boiled milk.

Enjoy!

[1] Lucia Alden Bradford (1807-1893) was the daughter of Capt. Gershom Bradford and Sarah Hickling Bradford. She, along with her three sisters – Maria (1803-1864), Elizabeth (1809-1890) and Charlotte (1813-1893) – was raised and learned to cook in the Bradford House on Tremont Street in Duxbury. Today the house is a museum owned by the Duxbury Rural & Historical Society.

Rare Photos of Boston’s Metropolitan Works, 1893

Carolyn Ravenscroft, Archivist

As our very large Bradford Family Collection continues to be processed, unexpected items come to light.  Today, as I was organizing the many photographs in the collection, I came across an envelope addressed to Laurence Bradford (1842-1909) containing twenty-five images depicting the building of a portion of the early sewage system on Deer Island. Many of the photographs are of the dredging of Shirley Gut.  As a civil engineer, Laurence Bradford worked on the project. He was part of the initial planning phase as early as 1888 and conducted hydrographic surveys around Deer Island.  He was also in charge of building the bulkhead and “of dredging and preparing the channel across the Gut for reception of the sewer pipe.”[1]

Diver H.W. Phillips at Shirley Gut with the Deer Island Alms House in background, Oct. 1893.

Diver H.W. Phillips at Shirley Gut with the Deer Island Alms House in background, Oct. 1893.

Deer Island, so called because of the deers that swam to safety on its shores when pursued by wolves, is actually no longer an island. It is a peninsula stretching into Boston Harbor from Winthrop. The Shirley Gut that had separated the island from the mainland was filled in by beach erosion during the devastating hurricane of 1938. Today it is home to the Deer Island Waste Water Treatment Plant. In 1893, however, when these photographs were taken, it was still best known for the large gothic-looking Alms House that loomed over the shoreline. The “deserving poor” of Boston began being ferried out to the island in 1853.  In 1896 the Alms House became Deer Island House of Correction (the prison was closed in 1991).

Center Section of Siphon at Shirley Gut, Oct. 1893

Center Section of Siphon at Shirley Gut, Oct. 1893

In April, 1893 the Board of Metropolitan Sewerage Commissioners received approval for plans to construct a sewer and siphon across the Shirley Gut between Point Shirley and Deer Island.  The photographs of this work are wonderful. It was obviously no small task to dredge and create this system. The image of the diver, H.W. Phillips, suited up in his primitive (and heavy) equipment, about to don his helmet, with the Alms House in the background, is particularly interesting. Of equal note are the workers and children sitting in the large center section of the siphon.

Mason lining the siphon pipes with brickwork before launching, Shirley Gut, July 1893.

Mason lining the siphon pipes with brickwork before launching, Shirley Gut, July 1893.

Laurence Bradford, the son of Rev. Claudius Bradford and Maria Weston Bradford, was one of the owners of the Duxbury Rural & Historical Society’s Bradford House, located at 931 Tremont Street, Duxbury.  He inherited the house after his aunts, Lucia and Charlotte Bradford, passed away in 1893 – coincidentally, the same year these photographs were taken.  Laurence and his wife, Hattie Phipps Bradford, used the family homestead only during the summer months. Their sons, Gershom and Edward Bradford, donated the home, its contents and its vast archival collection to the DRHS in 1968.

[1] Letter from H. A. Carson, Chief Engineer of Metropolitan Sewerage Commission to “Whom it May Concern,” Feb. 28, 1894. Bradford Family Collection, Drew Archival Library.

The Photographic Record of the Delano Triplets

Delano Triplets, 1868 Photographer: Baxter & Adams, Chelsea, MA

Delano Triplets, 1868
Photographer: Baxter & Adams, Chelsea, MA

Carolyn Ravenscroft, Archivist

The survival rate of triplets in the mid-19th century was not high – neither for mother nor children. A home-birth with the assistance of the local doctor was dicey at best. Medicine of the day was also woefully inadequate to assist these undersized or premature babies once they were born.  So, it is surprising that Catherine Drew Delano (1833-1919) was able to produce three healthy babies on a cold winter’s day in January, 1868.  The children – two girls and a boy – were Caroline S. Delano (1868-1955), Grace T. Delano (1868-1935) and Benjamin Franklin Delano (1868-1920).  What makes their coming into the world even more special, are the four photographs that follow them from infancy to their teenage years. A remarkable record of their early life.

The triplets were born in Chelsea, MA but they are from Duxbury stock and spent much of their lives here.  Their father, Winslow T. Delano, was the son of Capt. Samuel Delano and the nephew of Capt. Amasa Delano. After a short stint following the California Gold Rush, Winslow returned east and entered is brother’s shipbuilding firm on Lincoln’s Wharf in Boston – B. F. Delano & Co. In 1855 he married Catherine D. Winslow of Duxbury.  Two sets of twins came in quick succession – Fanny and Emily in 1857 and George and Arthur in 1859. In each of these cases, a twin sadly died within three months. When the triplets arrived, therefore, they were greeted not only by their grateful parents, but also only two older siblings.  But, in a cruel twist of fate, while the triplets thrived, it was their father who did not live past three months of their birth. On April 23, 1868 Winslow died of “softening of the brain.”  This diagnosis could indicate a variety of causes, but it was most likely a cerebral hemorrhage. He was only 47 years old.  Catherine was now the widowed mother of five young children.

Delano Triplets, c. 1870 Photographer: M. Chandler [Marshfield, MA]

Delano Triplets, c. 1870
Photographer: M. Chandler [Marshfield, MA]

The 1870 census shows the family having left Chelsea and living on St. George Street in Duxbury next to the home of Catherine’s parents – George Winslow and Hannah Drew Winslow. This move ensured that Catherine had the help of not only her mother and younger sister, Georgianna Winslow, but also of a number of aunts, cousins and friends.  By 1880, however, the family had moved back to Boston and was living at 81 St. Botoloph Street. They divided their time between the city and the seaside, maintaining ownership of their St. George Street property throughout their lives.  The Delanos were active in Duxbury’s civic and social affairs of the day – Caroline S. Delano, also called “Carrie,” was one of the founding members of the Duxbury Rural & Historical Society.  Grace and Carrie never married and it does not appear that their brother did either – all are buried in their family’s plot in Duxbury’s Mayflower Cemetery.

Delano Triplets, c. 1888 Photographer: Notman, Boston, MA

Delano Triplets: Carrie, Frank & Grace, c. 1888
Photographer: Notman, Boston, MA

Delano Triplets, c. 1874 Photographer: Unknown

Delano Triplets, c. 1874
Photographer: Unknown

The Fire That Burned the Weston Dynasty

Letter written by Samuel L. Winsor to his brother in 1850 describing the fire at the Weston house.  The letter was recently acquired by the Drew Archival Library

Letter written by Samuel L. Winsor to his brother in 1850 describing the fire at the Weston house. The letter was recently acquired by the Drew Archival Library

Carolyn Ravenscroft, Archivist

Just after midnight on March 29,1850 an Irish servant in the employ of Gerhsom Bradford Weston awoke to the smell of smoke. After giving an alarm, she, along with the large Weston clan, ran from the house in their nightclothes and watched in horror as the quickly moving blaze burned the stately home on Harmony Street (today’s St. George St.). Despite the best efforts of the volunteer bucket brigade, almost nothing could be saved of the contents of the house – portraits, jewelry, furnishings, and even $4,000 in cash were all lost within a few short hours. The total loss reported by Weston’s secretary, William Ellison, was $55,000 ($1.7 million today).

Two letters at the Drew Archival Library recount the fire. One, written by Louisa Bradford Thomas, the Weston’s neighbor at 4 Cedar Street, gives an eye-witness account of the “melancholy spectacle” to her niece, Isabel Kent. The Weston family, turned out of the house without so much as stockings on their feet, made their way to a friend’s house and sent a note to Louisa Thomas for clothing, which she was able to supply. According to Mrs. Thomas, the family lost “the accumulation of thirty years, from all parts of Europe, besides portraits & treasures.” The other letter, only recently acquired by the Drew Archival Library, was written by Samuel L. Winsor to his brother, Capt. Daniel L. Winsor. It gives particulars gleaned from speaking to William Ellison about what transpired on the night of the fire. He records the only items saved from the blaze were “the piano, sofas, front door, 1 carpet and 1 painting.” Both letters refer to the fact that the house was uninsured, but Winsor gives added detail, i.e. “no insurance on the house or on furniture! Never was insured…Boston & Country offices had heretofore refused to insure on account of so many fireplaces.” Perhaps most amazing to Winsor was the loss of “gold watches on the stands – 4 of them in the house.”

Had the fire happened at a different time, perhaps a few years earlier when the great Weston shipbuilding firm begun by Ezra “King Caesar” Weston I in 1764 was still one of the most profitable and recognized in the world, the loss would not have been so catastrophic. But for Gershom Bradford Weston, the eldest son of Duxbury’s second “King Caesar,” Ezra Weston II, the house and its contents now represented almost the entirety of his net-worth.   Typical of the later generations of great merchant wealth, G. B. Weston did not produce income, instead he spent it to promote worthy causes, such as abolition and temperance, and to advance his political career. Also perhaps a bit too typically, he did not see the need to curtail his expenditures once the bulk of his inheritance had been reduced to ashes. He moved his family to temporary quarters in Boston and began the rebuilding of his estate – even larger than before. To pay for the new house he borrowed heavily from his younger brother, Alden B. Weston, and allowed him to hold the mortgage.

During the 1850’s and into the 1860’s Gershom Bradford Weston may have felt the pinch of his reduced circumstances, but to the outside world nothing had changed. He continued to be active in local and state politics, and even ran as the Free Soil Party candidate for the Congress in 1852. In 1860 he was a delegate to the Republican National Convention that nominated Abraham Lincoln. During the Civil War he tirelessly worked to recruit men from Duxbury to serve in the Union Army and was instrumental in seeing that Duxbury soldiers received the bounties that were due them.

wright estate001

Mansion rebuilt by Gershom Bradford Weston, later owned by the Wright family. It was torn down in the late 1960s

Despite his unflagging political and social career, financial troubles were on the horizon. In October, 1864 Weston mortgaged the entirety of his personal property to his son Alfred for $3,288.50 with the understanding that all property would remain in the hands of Gershom Bradford Weston and he had the right to purchase it back within five years. Included in the inventory are his horses, Charley and Poppit, a variety of carriages and buggies, livestock, and home furnishings. Nothing in the inventory is as elegant as the descriptions of those items lost in the fire 14 years earlier – there is only one gold watch this time. The following month Weston wrote out an inventory of his real estate holdings under the heading “Judgment for the sum of $11,755.54, Executed 30 Nov 1864.” But the biggest financial reversal came in 1867 when, after years of estrangement and litigation, his brother Alden called in the mortgage on the Harmony Street property. Once again Gershom Bradford Weston found himself turned out of his mansion – only this time there was no hope of getting it back.

In what could be considered a cruel twist of fate, Weston rented a house just on the edge of his former estate (21 Pine Hill Ave.). He therefore had a front row seat as he watched the new and fantastically wealthy owners, George and Georgianna Wright, take possession of it. When word reached his Boston friends that the house Weston was renting was to be sold, forcing him to move yet again, they took up a collection and purchased the property – putting the house in his wife’s name to keep it from the creditors.  Gershom Bradford Weston died in 1869 at the age of 70. When his brother Alden died in 1880, the original Weston mansion (today known as the King Caesar House), the final vestige of the once great Weston dynasty, was sold and turned into the Powder Point School for Boys.

Sources:

Browne, Patrick T.J. King Caesar of Duxbury: Exploring the World of Ezra Weston, Shipbuilder & Merchant. Duxbury, MA: Duxbury Rural & Historical Society. 2006.

Weston, Edmund Brownell. In Memorium: My Father and My Mother Hon. Gershom Bradford Weston, Deborah Brownell Weston of Duxbury, Massachusetts. Providence, RI. 1916.

Louisa B. Thomas Letter in Bradford Family Collection, DAL.MSS.024, Drew Archival Library

Samuel L. Winsor Letter (1850), DAL.SMS.068, Drew Archival Library

Financial papers, Alden B. Weston Collection, Drew Archival Library, DAL.MSS.056

Date Board House Files, Capt. George Peterson House, 1801, Drew Archival Library

Duxbury High School Interns Catalog Three New Collections

Over the past few years I have had the pleasure of working with and mentoring Duxbury High School interns.  Each semester two to four students come daily to the Drew Archives and assist in the cataloging of collections.  I am pleased to have been able to add three new finding aids here because of their hard work during the internship program – the diary of Martha (Hammett) Blanchard, the Keen Family Collection, and a letter by William P. Webster.

Meaghan Marohn, a Duxbury High School senior, cataloged the diary of Martha (Hammett) Blanchard, a summer resident of Duxbury.  The diary was written in 1922 when Martha Blanchard 71 years old.  It contains daily entries describing the weather, visits with friends, special outings, holidays and household chores.  Of special note is the entry  on Aug. 22 when lightening struck the Myles Standish Monument in Duxbury, knocking the statue’s head and torso to the ground.  The diary gives an idea of what the typical day of  a woman in 1922 would look like.  The diary was donated by Rebecca Chin, a descendent of Martha Blanchard.

Nick Blair, also a senior at Duxbury High School, assisted in the cataloging of the Keen Family Collection.  This collection was donated last year by Janet Peterson and it contains some of the oldest documents we have at the Drew Archival Library – two 17th century deeds.  The Keen family lived in the Ashdod section of town and their property is part of Camp Wing today.

Senior Josh West cataloged the letter of a young Duxbury teacher, William P. Webster, from 1842.  This entertaining letter was written to William’s brother, Walter, and tells of lyceum lectures, holiday  celebrations and even a Forefather’s Day dinner in Plymouth.  The letter is interesting in another way – it was written on an unusually large piece of paper as somewhat of a joke.  Webster clearly had a sense of humor.  The letter was donated by John and Polly Nash.

In addition to the Finding Aids prepared by Duxbury High School students, Simmons College intern, Emily Carta, worked diligently on the Wilde Family Collection.  Dr. James Wilde was one of Duxbury’s two 19th century doctors.  He lived on St. George Street, just a short walk down the street from the Drew Archives.  What we discovered during the processing of the collection was the Dr. Wilde’s daughters are as noteworthy as their father.  Kate Wilde was a suffragette and editor of the Woman’s Journal in Boston.  Lucy Beal Wilde was equally active in the social movements of her day.  The collection was donated by Dawn Wilde whose husband was a direct descendent of Dr. Wilde.

This semester three students are working on a number of interesting collections that will be added here when completed.

Imprinted on My Heart: The Unrequited Love of Sarah Freeman Sampson

The Drew Archives recently acquired the letter of Sarah F. Sampson to Jacob Smith, Jr. (1836) DAL.SMS.063

The Drew Archives recently acquired the letter of Sarah F. Sampson to Jacob Smith, Jr. (1836) DAL.SMS.063

Carolyn Ravenscroft, Archivist

At 9pm on the night of September 11, 1836, Sarah F. Sampson sat in her bedroom and wrote one last love letter to her cousin Jacob Smith, Jr. It was Jacob’s 25th birthday but she did not mention the occasion in her letter, perhaps she had forgotten. What she did mention, repeatedly, was her devotion to him. This could not have been an easy thing to write, as Jacob was due to marry Persis “Ann” Weston, another cousin, in less than a month. At no point did Sarah implore Jacob not to marry, she even wished him well, but it is clear she would rather he had chosen her.

Sarah Freeman Sampson was born in Duxbury on March 1, 1813 in the cape-style home her father, Martin Sampson, had built in 1807 (today’s 57 South Station Ave.). Sarah’s mother died within months of her birth, leaving her father to care for her as well as her two siblings, ages 3 and 5. Not surprisingly, Martin chose to remarry rather quickly, and it was through Martin Sampson’s second wife, Sarah Smith, that Sarah F. would become related to the recipient of her letter. Jacob Smith, Jr. was Sarah Smith’s nephew. Not that their paths wouldn’t have crossed without this connection – Sarah’s house was only a stone’s throw to Jacob’s, he living at what is today 251 Harrison Street. But, the inevitable family gatherings must have made the two much more aware of each other. And young Jacob Smith was certainly someone to notice. By 1836 he was already first mate on his father’s brig, Globe. He had gone to sea when he was only eight, celebrating his ninth birthday in Malaga, Spain. According to one source, at age eleven he had been paraded in front of Russian nobility in St. Petersburg as the first American child they had ever seen. While many Duxbury sailors could tell tales of far away places to impress the ladies, Jacob had the advantage of being young, wealthy and having great prospects. His father, Capt. Jacob Smith, Sr., was an important member of the town who not only owned a number of Duxbury properties, but also a large farm in Marshfield. Is it any wonder that Sarah F.Sampson was smitten?

How Jacob received his cousin’s letter, or whether he returned her sentiments, is impossible to know. Sarah’s letter does indicate she had received an equally private one from him so there may have been complicated feelings on both sides. Regardless, he went ahead with his wedding to Persis Ann Weston in October, 1836. Persis, or Ann, as she was called, was the niece of his step-mother (like Sarah Sampson, Jacob had lost his own mother when he was very young). Married life did not keep him at home, at least not initially. As the captain of his own vessel, Jacob traveled around Cape Horn and up the western seaboard in 1837, trading with the natives for sable furs which he sold back in New England. In 1838 he was in London to see the coronation of Queen Victoria. At the age of thirty, having been aboard a ship more often than not, he retired from the sea and moved to Westford, MA. There he owned an historic tavern, became a gentleman farmer and was active in local politics – he served as a Selectman during all four years of the Civil War. He died in 1898, the oldest man in Westford at the time, leaving behind his wife, Ann, and two daughters – Miss Clara A. Smith and Mrs. Louisa D. Young. A son, Henry, had died in a tragic rail road accident at the age of 21 in 1863.

Lest you feel too badly for Sarah F. Sampson, let me assure you she married well and had a happy life (or as happy as we can surmise from the scant information left to us). In 1840 her heart was mended enough to accept the proposal of a very successful dry goods merchant from Medford named Jonas Coburn. Together they had five children: Sarah Louise (b. 1841), Charles F. (b. 1843), George M. (b. 1846), Frank (b. 1853) and William (b. 1854). All lived to adulthood but William who died at age 4. The Coburns were very active in civic affairs and were substantial members of the community. As a memorial to their parents, the children of Jonas and Sarah had a stained glass window installed in the First Parish Church in Medford that can still be seen today.

During the summer months Sarah would bring her family to Duxbury and stay with her unmarried sister, Hannah, in her childhood home. After Hannah Sampson’s death in 1882, the house was left to Sarah and her children who retained the property as a summer residence into the 20th century.  Sarah Freeman Sampson Coburn died in Medford, MA in 1890, at age 77.

The following is a transcription of the letter Sarah penned late at night to “the one person I really did love.”

Jacob Smith, Jr. Chief Mate of the Brig Globe, Boston
Duxbury Sept. 11, 1836

Coz Jacob,

I received your letter last Saturday & was not a little surprised at its contents. You say that you heard I was keeping school & Mr. Lovell often called & stopped after school. What do you mean? I entreat of you Jacob to answer this the moment you have read it & tell me where you got your information. I now call upon you as a friend to listen impartially to a fair statement of facts. In the first place I have neither seen or heard from a Lovell since last winter, & in the second place, Mr. Lovell never was the chosen object of my affection, I liked him as a friend but I did not love him as – I can think it but I can’t say it. No Jacob there never was but one person that I thought I really did love. You undoubtedly know who I have reference too. I have loved, shall ever love him. But that love will never be returned, another will have that privilege (in other words does have) it is a privilege indeed!!! Let him go, but he carries with him the most devoted affections of one who never knew love till she saw him & who will never know – I will stop where I am for I have already said too much. But you know me too well I shall therefore entrust this to your honour, as I have done heretofore. As it was your request I have kept your letter private & I now ask the same of you. Don’t you show it at your peril for I have written it from the impulse of the moment. A few more brief sentences & I will close. Mr. Stetson & the will be Mrs. Stetson returned last night. I have not yet seen Martha, but I saw Mr. Stetson to day & dined with him. He says you are the some old six pence or I believe it is now “2 & 6 pence.” By the way I saw Sarah Loring last Sunday, but did not speak with her. Martha R. has just gone from here in all her beauty. She wished to be remembered to you. She is a friend if ever there was one. I would not part with her for all the girls there are in Duxbury. I forgot to mention that I have a letter from cousin N. F. Frothingham to day, he writes he is coming down in a few days. I shall be happy to see him & I think I should like to see you a few moments (or so) as Aunt Shere says & taken a dish of sociability. By the way have you forgotten the day that G. M. Richardson & myself spent at your house? I have not. It is imprinted on my [heart] in indelible

Portion of Sarah F. Sampson Letter

Portion of Sarah F. Sampson Letter

characters. Hark!! The clock is striking 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10. Oh Dear me I must draw this  protracted scrawl to a close. When I first began it was past nine & I thought I would just write a few lines & ask for an explanation of your letter, which I beg you will favour me with, on the reception of this. Jacob you must excuse the writing, [editing] & orthography of this letter for I am positively half asleep. Pardon me for not previously mentioning the name of Ann. Heaven smile on you both & bless you, may your cup of happiness be ever full even to overflowing. May no cloud interrupt the sunshine of your days, & when at last you are called to part from her here, may you be reunited in that world “where the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest” is the sincerest wish of

Your aff cousin
S. F. Sampson

In two minutes more I am tucked up in bed fast asleep

N.B. & P.S.
I am so sleepy that I cannot possibly read this over. If I have written anything improper I beg of you to excuse it & take it from whence it came.
Good night
Sarah
Answer this full of news
Love to all

Note: Mr. Lovell is a mystery at this time but some of the other names a known. Mr. and Mrs. Stetson are Jacob Smith’s brother-in-law, Samuel Stetson, and sister, Martha. Samuel Stetson was a lawyer and the couple lived on Tremont Street.
G. M. Richardson was most likely part of the Richardson family that owned a large estate adjacent to Sarah F. Sampson’s house. The estate was once owned by George Partridge, one of Duxbury’s most prominent citizens and inherited by George P. Richardson. Martha R may be Martha Richardson (b. 1815).
N.F. Frothingham is Nathaniel F. Frothingham of Charlestown, MA whose mother was Joanna Sampson of Duxbury. He married Margaret T. Smith, the daughter of Capt. Benjamin Smith and cousin to both Jacob Smith, Jr and Sarah F. Sampson. It is interesting to note that Frothingham married Margaret on Sept. 30, 1836, just 19 days after this letter was written.

Sources:
Drew Archival Library, House Date board Files – Martin Sampson House and Daniel Bradford House
Drew Archival Library, Capt. Jacob Smith Collection
Find A Grave, Jacob Smith, Jr, http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=124241863
Unitarian Universalist Church of Medford, http://www.uumedford.org/history.html
Leading manufacturers and merchants of eastern Massachusetts: historical and descriptive review of the industrial enterprises of Bristol, Plymouth, Norfolk, and Middlesex Counties (Google eBook)