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…”

The Valentines of Emma M. Drew

Valentine to Emma Drew, signed "Rose Bud" 8" x 10". c. 1850
Valentine to Emma Drew, signed “Rose Bud”
8″ x 10″ c. 1850-1852

As tomorrow is Valentines day, it is the perfect time to highlight some of the lovely valentines in our collections.  Sending messages of affection was not always done in the commercialized fashion of today. In the mid-19th century you were more likely to receive a hand illustrated missive with a heartfelt original poem. The delicate paper on which they were written often imitated intricate lace. These precious keepsakes could be treasured for a lifetime.

Emma Marinda Drew received a number of valentine messages while still a single young girl in Duxbury, MA. Emma was born in 1834, the daughter Capt. Joshua Drew and Marinda Wadsworth, and grew up in the lovely Federal-style house at 294 Washington Street. Her father was the captain of two of Ezra “King Caesar” Weston’s largest ships, the Oneco and Manteo. Her mother voyaged to sea with her husband at times and Emma may have accompanied them as a child.

The valentines given to Emma in the collection all date from 1850-1852, when she was between sixteen and eighteen years old – the perfect age for courting. During the mid-19th century, just as today, girls would hand their best friends

Emma Drew Valentine, 1850
Emma Drew Valentine, 1850

valentines as well. No doubt the majority of the poems in the collection came from Emma’s closest female companions. They also follow the tradition of secret valentines, forcing the recipient to guess at the sender identity. In one, the anonymous author writes:

If thou should’st guess me, do not tell.

But in thy heart the secret keep

And when thine eyes are closed in sleep;

And visions on thy slumber shine

Then dream I am your valentine

I particularly like the verse that uses the imagery of the sea and sailing – perfect for a seacoast town like Duxbury:

Emma Drew Valentine. c. 1850
Emma Drew Valentine. c. 1850

I love the ship the gallant ship

That bounding o’er the bay

With compass true, like I & You

To Hymen points the way

My heart heaves like her snowy sails

All bending to the breeze;

And when safe from wreck and

boisterous gale, My heart may know some ease;

Yet in storm or calm oh!

Why repine thou art my faithful valentine

Emma Drew Valentine, c. 1850-1852
Emma Drew Valentine, c. 1850-1852

Emma married Lyman Drew, a musician and music teacher, on August 16, 1855. The couple had one child, Mary Lyman Drew, born in 1858.  In 1881 Emma and Lyman purchased an old house at 152 Marshall Street in the Standish Shore area of town. The house was perfectly situated to be an attractive boarding house and indeed it became a popular destination. It was close to the beach and the Myles Standish Hotel and a only short walk from the recently erected (although not completed until 1898) Myles Standish Monument.

emma drew valentine002

Emma became a widow in 1887 when Lyman died but she continued to run the boarding house until 1907. She then became a boarder herself, moving to the home an acquaintance on Chestnut Street.  Emma M. Drew died in 1913 at the age of 79.

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.

A December in Duxbury, 1841

Letter by William P. Webster  Jan. 1, 1842 Gift of John and Polly Nash

Letter by William P. Webster
Jan. 1, 1842
Gift of John and Polly Nash

Carolyn Ravenscroft – Archivist

I have many “favorite” letters at the Drew Archival Library, but one, written on New Year’s Day, 1842, by a young teacher named William Pingrey Webster, is the holiday-themed correspondence I like best.  It is interesting for many reasons – it is witty, tells of seasonal happenings and mentions some Duxbury folk by name, but perhaps the reason I place it so high on my list of wonderful letters is because William wrote it on an extremely large piece of 28” x 40” paper, filling every bit of it. In a time when postage was paid by the recipient, we can only imagine the joke that was played on William’s unsuspecting brother, Walter R. Webster, when the large missive was delivered to his Plymouth, NH home.   William’s sense of humor is sprinkled throughout the letter, some allusions we understand and some short-hand comments are clearly inside jokes between the brothers that we cannot possible decipher.

William P. Webster was born in 1817 in Bridgewater, NH to Walter Raleigh Webster and Betsy Pingrey. When he was twenty-two years old he did what so many educated young men did during that time, he set out to become a teacher. Being an educator in the 1830’s and 40’s in America was often a temporary, itinerant job for men. It was something they did prior to establishing themselves in a more lucrative and, as teaching younger children increasingly became the domain of women, more masculine career.  Men in their late teens and early twenties would often arrive in a town and advertise for pupils or go door to door looking for families that had children in need of tutoring. In the case

Certificate issued by Town of Duxbury, 1839 stating William P. Webster is qualified to teach.

Certificate issued by Town of Duxbury, 1839 stating William P. Webster is qualified to teach.

of William P. Webster, he was hired by the town of Duxbury to teach in one of its public school districts in 1839. Interestingly, at the time of this letter, he had just started a new position at a school that had “been used to a Democratic form of government heretofore .” My guess is that he took over the Point School, the home of the first Student Government, after its former teacher, Edmund Gifford, had moved on [see Journal of the Point School].  The boys in his class were rambunctious and rang the bell hard enough crack it, but teaching did have its advantages, for William was able to “get acquainted with all the ‘pretty’ girls.”

Pilgrim Hall, c. 1870

Pilgrim Hall, c. 1870

In his spare time William was quite busy. From the vivid descriptions of his activities during the month of December we really get a glimpse of a typical South Shore holiday season during the antebellum period.  On December 22nd, he and his friend, Inman (also a teacher in Duxbury), took a two hour sleigh ride with friends to Plymouth to enjoy the festivities surrounding  Forefather’s Day, the anniversary of the landing of the Pilgrims.[1]  All the men met at Pilgrim Hall, “a very large room full of Indian antiquities and all the old ‘trumpery’ that the Pilgrims brought with them” and proceeded, escorted by the Standish Guards, to the Unitarian Church. There they heard a rousing speech on the “foremothers” by Joseph R. Chandler, Esq. of Philadelphia. Dining at Pilgrim Hall following the ceremony cost $2, a price too rich for William. He and Inman went to the Pilgrim House instead where they ate turkey. [2] A ball that evening was also far too costly for the young teacher – at $3 a ticket he had to turn down a young Plymouth lady who invited him, noting to his brother, “tis a trouble to be poor.” A dancing party the same evening in his own neighborhood probably took some of the sting out of his straitened circumstances.

The following Saturday evening, William attended the Christmas celebration at the Universalist church on Washington Street in Duxbury which was “’jock full’ and very neatly trimmed with evergreen.”[3] Religion was a bit more fluid during this period and members of various Protestant denominations would frequent each other’s meetings. A particularly good visiting minister at any church was always an event not to be missed no matter what your affiliation. William went half the time to the Unitarian Church and the other half to the Universalists – where he could also see Methodists.

Washington Street, Duxbury with Seth Sprague, Jr. House, c. 1870.

Washington Street, Duxbury with Seth Sprague, Jr. House, c. 1870.

Temperance meetings took up much of William’s time during December. The Temperance movement was quite popular in Duxbury with between 400-500 members of the local chapter. Included in this number were at least half a dozen sea captains who gave up drink. According to William, these “old topers will come out and sign the pledge and tell their experience, then we cheer them – I never enjoyed myself better in any meetings.”  Seth Sprague, Jr., one of the most substantial men in town and a Massachusetts State Senator, never missed a meeting. It must have been somewhat embarrassing for William to have purveyors of spirits in his immediate family – both his brother and father operated the Webster Tavern in Bridgewater, NH. They would have had a hard time with the business in Duxbury, as William advised them, “alcohol does not show his head here, if he does they pounce upon him.”

William was also a member the Duxbury Lyceum, also known as the Debating Society of Duxbury. The Lyceum was formed in 1832 by a group of mostly young men and women who gathered together to argue popular topics of the day. During December 1841, the little group considered the questions, “Ought parents to choose the partners for their children” (William spoke in the affirmative); “Is there anything improper on a ladies making a proposition to a gentleman for marriage,” (William supported the negative); and, “Are early marriages advisable” (William would have spoken for the affirmative if it had not been too cold to attend). Much of his arguments were definitely made with a bit of tongue in cheek.  In addition to his debating, he attended a singing school held two evenings a week.

William was looking forward to 1842. He already had an invitations to dine with  Capt. George P. Richardson, a wealthy retired sea captain, and also to share a clam dinner with his old roommate. His days of being a “pedagogue” were numbered as he was planning to “set a pole and let it fall and then follow it.” He ends his letter with “wishing you all a new happy new year – please remember me to all that take the pains to enquire.”

Now, it is incumbent upon me to tell you what became of our humorous friend. I debated whether to write this article without mentioning William’s future and let you all believe that his pole pointed toward a long life filled with many more holidays. But, I knew there would be at least a few among you who would be unsatisfied with that, so I will tell you what became of him. William’s death came just two years after this letter was written, when he was a mere 27 years old. He died of consumption (tuberculosis), a disease that was far too common in the  19th and early 20th centuries and took many lives. He is buried in the Webster Cross cemetery in Bridgewater, NH.  But, I prefer not to dwell on that and would rather image our young jokester as he was on New Year’s day in 1842, bent over a overly large piece of paper, chuckling to himself as he recounted his December in Duxbury.

[1] Forefather’s Day is still celebrated in Plymouth by the Pilgrim Society/Pilgrim Hall Museum and the Old Colony Club. See’_Day and

[2] Pilgrim House was a hotel on the corner of Main and Middle Streets in downtown Plymouth established by Danville Bryant in 1834. It burned on June 20, 1846. At the time of William Webster’s turkey dinner, the hotel was owned by Francis J. Goddard. In 1856 Union Hall was built on the site.

[3] See A Christmas Romance in Duxbury for more history on the local Unitarian Church.

A Christmas Romance In Duxbury

Rebecca Frazar, Jr. House (1829). 56 St. George Street, Duxbury

Rebecca Frazar, Jr. House (1829).
56 St. George Street, Duxbury

Carolyn Ravenscroft, Archivist

While everyone is familiar with the fabled courtship of John Alden and Priscilla Mullins, there is an equally enchanting (and truer) love story that took place in Duxbury. This is really a tale in two parts, so while I promise you there will be a romance before the end of this blog, I am obligated to set the stage with a bit of history.

In 1823 Rebecca Frazar, a descendent of the above mentioned John and Priscilla, inherited $9,000 from her friend and employer, George Partridge. Rebecca had acted as housekeeper, hostess and occasional business agent for Partridge and, as such, shared his home for thirty years.[1] George Partridge was one of the leading figures in Duxbury and had a strong belief in education. In addition to his bequest to Rebecca, he left $10,000 to the town for the establishment of a school (Partridge Academy was built with these funds in 1844). Perhaps it is not surprising that Rebecca, having been George’s companion for so long, also had a keen interest in education. In 1829, at the age of sixty, she used her inheritance to build a house in which she opened a private school. This house, located at 56 St. George Street, is one of the only “date boarded” houses in Duxbury attributed solely to a woman. Rebecca Frazar died in 1840 and the house was given to her niece, Abigail Weston, who allowed the school to continue until Partridge Academy was built. In 1842, Mary Rice, a young woman from Boston who had recently returned from her time as a tutor in the South, was hired to take over as teacher.

During this same period, a new church was organized in Duxbury – in 1825 a Universalist congregation was formed by 67 members of the community. They built their church on Washington Street, approximately where the parking lot to the 1803 Winsor House Inn is today. Despite having some prominent parishioners on its roles, the Universalist church was not prosperous and had an onerous time paying its ministers. In 1843 it hired a young reverend by the name of Daniel P. Livermore “providing that we can raise money enough to pay him for his services.”[3] Eventually they voted to offer him $7 for each Sunday he preached, rather than giving him a yearly salary.

And now we come to the romance portion.livermore003

On a cold Christmas Eve in 1844  Mary Rice, the young teacher from Rebecca Frazar’s school, was making her way home. She had been a bit downcast all during the day, wondering “what was the meaning of life?”[4] She had hoped that a long walk would clear her mind but she still felt troubled. Although she had passed by the Unitarian and Methodist meeting houses, both open for the holiday, she did not stop to enter. Instead she continued on her way, ultimately coming to the Universalist Society’s door on Washington Street. Mary was not familiar with the Universalists, other than to believe their liberality bordered on the unseemly – a reputation that was wholly undeserved, but quite common. She could hear singing coming from within, however, and it sounded welcoming to her tired soul.  So it was with both trepidation and curiosity that, when the sexton held the door for her, she went inside.

livermore004Holding forth from the pulpit was the twenty-five year old minister, Daniel P. Livermore – I can’t say whether he was handsome, but Mary described him as “blond in complexion, with a good voice and a simple, earnest, pre-possessing manner.”[5] After the sermon she met the Rev. Livermore at the door as parishioners filed out into the moonlit night. She found that he “knew me by sight and by name, although we had not met before.” She asked to borrow his sermon, which he kindly lent her. He then offered her the use of his library at his home on Powder Point (only two doors down from her own home) in order to learn more about the Universalist faith.  Though the two met frequently in the following months, Mary did not seem to think Daniel was falling in love with her. She, of course, was wrong. Within the year the couple were engaged and then married on May, 7, 1845. The timing was perfect; Partridge Academy, the dream of George Partridge, had finally opened, allowing the new Mrs. Livermore to transfer her students to good hands. Her family was not very enthusiastic with her choice of a husband at first, but they eventually came around.

Mary Livermore’s Story of My Life; or The Sunshine and Shadow of Seventy Years, which describes her meeting and courtship with Daniel, was published in 1897. If you have never read it, I encourage you to do so – or at least the chapters about Duxbury (22 and 23). It has great descriptions of the town during the 1840’s and the people who lived here.  In case you were wondering, the Livermores went on to have an eventful life together. From Duxbury, they moved to Fall River, MA and from there to Chicago. Both were active in the abolition and temperance movements. During the Civil War Mary worked tirelessly for the Chicago branch of the United States Sanitary Commission. In addition to The Story of My Life, Mary Livermore also penned My Story of the War. Daniel and Mary were married for more than fifty years and had three children.

And a final two notes: Partridge Academy remained the High School for the town of Duxbury until 1926. It burned in 1933 and the new Town Hall was built on the site. Partridge’s legacy lives on, however, in the scholarships given out annually by the Partridge Fund.

The Universalist Congregation on Washington Street dissolved sometime after 1846.  The land and building were sold in 1866 – the church was moved, possibly to Norwell.




[1] Dorothy Wentworth, “History of the Partridge Farm and House,” 1978. Drew Archival Library.

[3] Copy of the Records of the First Universalist Society of Duxbury, 1825-1846., the original of this book is at the Archives of the Andover-Harvard Theological Library at Harvard Divinity School.

[4] Mary Livermore, Story of My Life, (Hartford: A.D. Worthington & Co.,1897) 386.

[5] Ibid. 388.

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] 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.


[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.