The Five Wives of Benjamin Franklin Hathaway – Part 5: Angeline Evans

Six months after Amy Ann (Shaw) Hathaway’s demise, the 1855 Massachusetts census gives us the following snapshot of the Hathaway household:

Benjn F Hathaway, 47 – Carpenter
Sarah M Hathaway, 15
Benjn F Hathaway, 1
Sarah Hathaway, 57

We recognize Benjamin (modestly describing himself as a carpenter), his daughter Sarah, and Benjamin junior. Who is the 57-year-old, Sarah Hathaway? She is Benjamin’s older and unmarried sister (and likely inspiration for her niece’s name).

Whether Sarah moved in immediately after the double death blow, or whether Benjamin asked for her help, we can’t know, but her services, and womanly influence, would have been considered essential for that motherless baby boy and teenage daughter. However, Sarah’s tenure as lady of the house could only be a short-term solution.

Imagine yourself, approaching 60 years, and dealing every day with a rug-rat / toddler, the mood swings of an adolescent girl, in addition to provisioning, cooking, laundry, and household maintenance. It would be utterly exhausting! The situation certainly took a toll on Sarah, and probably, on all the Hathaways.

A mere eight months after a heartbreaking mother-and-child funeral, Benjamin had an answer to his prayers.

Send me an angel

On January 6, 1856, Angeline Evans married Benjamin F. Hathaway. Her mission: to raise a 22-month-old, guide a teenage girl, and see that her business-minded husband left the house each day with matching socks. She was single and had just turned 30. Why would she do it?

Worn by a New Hampshire bride in 1857. [Smithsonian National Museum of American History]

Angeline may have chosen a wedding dress similar to one above, worn by a New Hampshire bride in 1857. [Smithsonian National Museum of American History]

Angeline’s father, Thomas Evans (1790-1870) was, like Benjamin, a ship carpenter. His sons, Thomas and David Evans, did the same work and had moved between Massachusetts and Rhode Island, to towns where sailing vessels were being built and repaired.

Benjamin likely knew the family from their shared Freetown roots. They may well have worked in shipyards together. They were probably familiar with one another’s circumstances and shared sorrows.

Thomas and Ruth (Merrick) Evans had six children. They’d lost one son (George) on a 1843 whaling expedition. In 1850, they lost their youngest, daughter Mary, at 19, of consumption (tuberculosis). Another son (Jerome), had gone to California. Angeline was the only daughter left.

Did she fear she’d be left an old maid? Maybe. Was she in love with the older, experienced Benjamin Hathaway? Highly doubtful.  Did she observe in her brother Thomas’s marriage (to Abby Terry), a model of love and support she believed possible to create for herself? A rationale along these lines seems most probable to me. Angeline was a mature woman who knew enough of the world to realize whatever life she chose would have its share of challenges, and rewards.

Three births – before a funeral

Ten months into managing Benjamin, the house and children, Angeline produced a daughter, Angeline E. Hathaway. Thirteen months later, she gave birth to another girl, named for Benjamin’s dead wife, Helen Pratt Hathaway. (This makes me think Angeline may indeed have been angelic.) Then, wonder of wonders, as the year 1860 began, Angeline delivered a son, James L. Hathaway. Benjamin now had his (male) heir and a spare. Was there any inkling things were too good to last?

Angeline Evans Hathaway gave her whole heart to her marriage, literally. On June 6, 1861, she died of “disease of the heart,” at 35 years of age.

Gravestone of Angeline (Evans) Hathaway in Oak Grove Cemetery, New Bedford, MA

Angeline (Evans) Hathaway, Oak Grove Cemetery, New Bedford, MA [Find A Grave contributor, goose, 2015.]

What now?

Benjamin was into his 50s. He buried four wives and five children, and had five living wholly dependent on him. War loomed on the horizon, making the economic outlook uncertain. Benjamin was tasked with making difficult decisions for his real estate holdings (valued at $18,500 in 1860) and his lumber business.

His daughter Sarah was 21, capable of caring for the little ones and keeping up the house to reasonable standard. As the year 1861 ticked down, Benjamin had no compelling reason to seek a wife. Even so, his marital adventures were far from over.

Next time: The survivor

Sources and References:

  1. Ancestry.com. Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988; Freetown and New Bedford, MA.
  2. Ancestry.com. NARA, United States Federal Census, 1830, 1840, 1850, 1860, Warren, RI; Freetown and New Bedford, MA.
  3. Ancestry.com, Massachusetts State Census, 1855.
  4. Find A Grave.
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