Murder in Thunderbolt

A murder in the family always comes as a shock, even when you learn of it a more than a century after the fact. The victim was a first cousin (thrice removed), Philip H. Fitzpatrick, who was just 30 at his death in 1895. To make the matter worse, the affair was a nationwide scandal. The salient points appeared in newspaper headlines like the following from the June 5, 1895 issue of the Columbus Daily Enquirer (Columbus, GA):

A TRAGEDY AT THUNDERBOLT

The Proprietor of a Leading Gaiety Saloon

Killed By a Mount Vernon Lawyer. A Handsome Gaiety Girl Caused the Difficulty

Newspapers across Georgia, in South Carolina, Illinois and California published versions the tale. On June 6, 1895, the story hit Philip’s hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts. The evening edition of the Lowell Daily News reported it like this:

WANTED THE WOMAN
——————————————-
Particulars of Murder of Philip Fitzpatrick.
——————————————-
QUARRELED WITH ANOTHER MAN ABOUT A GAIETY GIRL.
Fitzpatrick Broke into a Room, and in Return Received Two Bullets in His Body -The Murderer Arrested and Locked Up – Father and Cousin of Dead Man Go After the Body. 

The catalyst of the tragedy was Helen (or Helene) Stockton, a singer and dancer who grew up in Washington, DC and whose real name was Emily Lazelle.[1]  We don’t know when Fitzpatrick hired her for his Savannah music hall, the Gaiety Theater, but she  became a fast favorite with the male patrons and Philip himself fell in love.

Anna Held was about Helen Stockton’s age in this 1899 poster from the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. [2]

About six weeks before the murder, Helen left the Gaiety. Why? Philip might have popped the question out of the blue, sending the girl into shock. Or, in a less gentlemanly move, Philip might have pressed her to engage in an illicit affair. Either of those would be excellent reasons to quit a workplace. As it turns out, virtue and scruples didn’t play a big role in Helen’s decision.

At 19, in the bloom of youth and beauty, and a hit on the music hall stage,  why would marriage have any appeal for Helen? Wives of working men and tradesman faced a life filled with the endless drudgery of  housework, childbearing and child-rearing. The rare exceptions to the rule were wives who married into wealth, and Helen might’ve had that angle in mind when she hooked up with a Gaiety admirer named Charles Dixon Loud.

Loud was a somewhat shady attorney, [3] a 42-year-old Georgia native, [4] twice Helen’s age and married, [5] a fact he may or may not have told Helen. He set her up in a room at the Warsaw Hotel in the Savannah suburb of Thunderbolt. Loud provided horses enabling the couple to go riding in the countryside.

Meanwhile, back in Savannah….

Philip Fitzpatrick was dealing with romantic rejection (and, if reports are accurate, the loss of his theater star) by drinking. However, although intoxication was a critical factor in the events that led to his demise, it’s unlikely Philip was an alcoholic (another possible reason for Helen’s flight). The reasons lie in the ambitious young man’s history.

In 1890, at the age of 25, Fitzpatrick moved away from family in Lowell, MA to make his way in Savannah, GA. Within five years, he established a profitable saloon, and expanded into popular entertainment. [6] By all accounts, the saloon and theater were thriving.  A habitual drunkard wouldn’t have the self-discipline essential to secure financing and licenses, to select locations, hire staff, manage operations and cash flow. 

However, there’s no question that on Tuesday, June 4. 1895, Philip Fitzpatrick stewed his brain in alcohol and fatally compromised his decision-making ability. He convinced himself that if he could only talk to Helen, face to face, she would agree to marry him.

The blow-by-blow of what happened was reported in the June 5 issue of The Constitution (Atlanta, GA):

This afternoon [June 4] Fitzpatrick, accompanied by some friends, went out to Thunderbolt, where he drank heavily. He declared that he would marry Miss Stockton, willing or unwilling. He first sent a friend to prevail upon her, but as she refused to consider the proposition, he determined to see her himself. Butler, the proprietor of the place, endeavored to keep him out, declaring that Miss Stockton had left the house. He found that she was still there, however. But still refused to let him see her, and the two engaged in a hand to hand fight in which Butler got the worst of it. The two were arrested by the marshall and were taken to the lock up, where they gave bond. Fitzpatrick promised not to go back to the house.

IN MISS STOCKTON’S ROOM
About 8 o’clock Colonel Loud, who had an engagement to go horseback riding with Miss Stockton, arrived, Fitzpatrick heard that his rival was in the house and became frantic. He forced his way in, and learning that Loud and Miss Stockton had gone to the latter’s room in order to avoid him, he rushed upstairs to the room and kicked and broke the door. He had a heavy stick in his hand and rushed at Miss Stockton with the stick upraised. He turned from her, however, toward Colonel Loud who was standing in the window of the small room, pistol in hand. As Fitzpatrick advanced, Loud fired a shot over his head to warn him. Fitzpatrick still advanced, and Loud fired a second shot striking him in the body. Fitzpatrick continued to advance when Loud fired the third shot, striking Fitzpatrick in the mouth and passing upward through the brain. Fitzpatrick fell and died in a few moments. Colonel surrendered himself to the marshall, who brought him to the city and turned him over to the police.

Wow, there it is, grim and gritty.  The above details are consistent across the dozen newspaper versions, but for a single element, that Philip threatened Helen before he attacked Loud, and I don’t believe it. Considering how well the scandal played across the country, had Philip actually tried to beat the girl, this affair wouldn’t have been billed a tragedy. I suspect the local paper steered the narrative in an effort to justify a violent homicide by one of their own, as an act of southern chivalry.

Charles Loud equipped himself with a loaded gun and shot his “rival” for Helen’s favors twice, the second shot to Philip’s head. After learning more about Loud’s behavior, both before and after the murder, I’m skeptical of the assertion that Loud’s first shot was intentionally aimed over Fitzpatrick’s head “to warn him.”

Loud was held by law enforcement, and went to trial for Philip’s murder in August 1895. He had a sympathetic judge and was acquitted.[ref] Loud continued to practice law and engage in land schemes, even managed a banana plantation in Honduras. He got to die of natural causes in 1927 at age 74.

Charles Loud’s legal wife, Rebecca Ann (McGregor) Loud, died in 1901 and in the decades that followed, Charles is found with a variety of “wives” on census records and newspaper notes. None was the woman over whom he killed a man. Helen Stockton, aka Emily Lazelle, the “Gaiety Girl,” or “vamp of Savannah,” if you will [7], likely changed her name again and disappeared.

 

The tragedy was doubled for Philip’s Fitzpatrick’s Lowell family

In the second headline about the Fitzpatrick murder in the Lowell Daily News, the last line reads,Father and Cousin of Dead Man Go After the Body.” It’s a clue to the next awful thing to happen to my Lowell, MA ancestral folks. I’ll share the fresh bad news with you in my next post.

Advertisement for the Hotel Charles in Lowell, MA

Lowell’s St. Charles Hotel, with the “best service in the city,” was young Phil Fitzpatrick’s first employer. Here he learned of a world beyond Lowell’s textile mills. [8]

References:

[1] GenealogyBank; Evening Star (Washington, DC); 26 Aug 1895; Col. Loud Acquitted.

[2] Picture credit: Anna Held (v 1877? – 1918); Digital ID: (digital file from intermediary roll copy film) var 0179 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/var.0179; Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA; http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pp.print

[3] Evidence for Charles D. Loud’s questionable character includes the following:

  • Charged with opening letters…held for examination before the United States commissioner. Columbus Daily Enquirer (Columbus, GA), Wednesday, Dec 15, 1886.
  • A Tragedy at Thunderbolt. Head of a syndicate that tried to sell 400,000 acres…to Gov. Northern’s old soldiers’ colony. Columbus Daily Enquirer (Columbus, GA), Thursday, June 6,  1895.
  • Alleged Mexican Swindle. Macon Telegraph (Macon, GA), Monday, May 8, 1911.
  • Sheriff Brings Lawyer [Loud] Into Court To Try Case. Beaumont Enterprise (Beaumont, TX), Friday, June 2, 1911.

[4] Ancestry.com; Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1900. T623, 1854 rolls. Year: 1900; Census Place: Mount Vernon, Montgomery, Georgia; Page: 1; Enumeration District: 0079.

[5] In addition to the 1900 US Census enumeration above, Find A Grave MEMORIAL ID 77229130 shows the couple’s son, John McGregor Loud who died in 1886; also MEMORIAL ID 77229158 for Rebecca Ann McGregor Loud who died in 1901.

[6] Ancestry.com; Savannah, Georgia, Licenses and Bonds, 1837-1909. Research Library and Municipal Archives City of Savannah, Georgia; Savannah, Georgia; Clerk of Council, Liquor Bond and License Books, 1890; Series Number: 5600CL-220, 230; Reel Number: 223111.Original data: Record Group 5600, City of Savannah, Georgia Records. City of Savannah, Research Library & Municipal Archives, Savannah, Georgia.

[7] Wikipedia.com; “Hard Hearted Hannah, the Vamp of Savannah” is a popular song with words by Jack Yellen, Bob Bigelow, and Charles Bates, and music by Milton Ager, published in 1924.

[8] Picture credit: Ancestry.com; US City Directories; 1886 Lowell City Directory

 

 

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Part 1: Thomas Seth Benson (1830-1888) – An Illiterate Doctor

After a lengthy break (thank you, gentle readers, for your patience), I’m back with a look at the life of the enigmatic, 39-year-old, American-born Thomas S. Benson, living in Springfield, Kings County, New Brunswick during the 1871 Census of Canada. Benson was listed as a “Doctor” living with the Jacob Spragg [Sprague] family, whose daughter, Judith, married Benson in December 1868.

In addition to the memorable enumerator’s note, “Quack! Quack!! Quack!!!”, three other boxes on that form were checked for Thomas Benson, “Doctor:”

  • “Over 20 and unable to read.”
  • “Over 20 and unable to write.”
  • “Infirmities: Deaf and Dumb.”

Could this possibly be correct? What doctor was unable to read or write? A deaf doctor couldn’t effectively assess the condition of his patient’s lungs or heart, much less learn a patient’s symptoms or medical history. Maybe the opinionated enumerator had a valid point. I searched for records to support or refute Benson’s claim he was a doctor.

The Christian Visitor (Saint John, New Brunswick) of 17 December 1868 printed Thomas and Judith’s marriage announcement:

m. 3rd inst., at residence of bride’s father, by Rev. W.A. Corey, Thomas Seth BENSON, M.D., Studholm (Kings Co.) / Judith D. youngest d/o Jacob SPRAGG, Springfield.

Two years or so before the 1871 census, we can confirm Benson identified himself as a medical doctor. Moving back in time, in census records, I learned Thomas Benson was not in New Brunswick, but living in the USA.  The United States Federal Census picked up a Thomas S. Benson, age 30, born in Maine (USA) and living in Kingsfield, Franklin County, Maine:

Thomas S Benson – 30 – $200 Real Estate – $150 Personal – Farmer – Born Maine;
Ruth A Benson – 23 – Born Maine 
Ida May Benson – 1 – Born Maine
Isaac B Benson – 65 – Farmer – Born New Brunswick

While this could be our Thomas Seth Benson, the document that clinches his identity is a record of military service, specifically, Massachusetts Soldiers, Sailors and Marines in the Civil War:

Thomas S Benson, age 32, occupation Physician, signed on at Farmington, Franklin County, Maine 26 September 1862, and was enlisted as a Corporal in the Company H, Massachusetts 3rd Cavalry Regiment on 27 October 1862.  He was mustered out on 24 Aug 1863 at Baton Rouge, LA.

Well, not only does this track, it gives us new information: Thomas is married to Ruth and has a year-old daughter; the 65-year-old Isaac B. Benson is likely his father. Thomas could read and write, and had no physical impairments. Somehow, Thomas S. Benson morphed from a farmer 6 June 1860 (date of the census enumeration) into a physician by his 27 October 1862 enlistment with  the Massachusetts 3rd Cavalry regiment.

While the education and training that qualifies MDs today takes a minimum of six years, standards for medical practice in the mid-nineteenth America did not exist. The Civil War Society’s Encyclopedia of the Civil War puts it this way:

During the period just before the Civil War, a physician received minimal training. Nearly all the older doctors served as apprentices in lieu of formal education. Even those who had attended one of the few medical schools were poorly trained. In Europe, four-year medical schools were common, laboratory training was widespread, and a greater understanding of disease and infection existed. The average medical student in the United States, on the other hand, trained for two years or less, received practically no clinical experience, and was given virtually no laboratory instruction.

Bowdoin College operated the Medical School of Maine (1820-1921), but it’s unlikely Thomas attended. As today, there were also fraudulent medical schools that issued “diplomas.” As a farmer, husband and father, he likely had no medical training when he enlisted. Perhaps, he parlayed a genuine interest in medicine, knowledge of animal husbandry and folk medicine to get assigned as a “Physician.”

Thomas spent just ten months doctoring in the military. Shipped with the Army of the Gulf to hot, humid, and muddy Louisiana, he tended more men suffering mosquito-borne fevers, dysentery, and other complaints than combat wounds. He’d had enough and at the end of August 1863, he made his way from Baton Rouge (LA) north. 

Did Thomas Benson rush home to the waiting arms of his wife Ruth and little daughter Ida May? Maybe he did, but it’s hard to know. His widowed father, Isaac B. Benson, living with him in 1860, died in May 1864. And then, on November 2, 1864, in Harvard, Massachusetts he got married to a local girl, Clara Whitney.

That’s right, Thomas Benson’s wives, thus far, were Ruth in 1860, Clara in 1864, Judith in 1868, and he had two more I will tell you about next time.

 

Sources:

1860 United States Federal Federal Census; Kingfield, Franklin, Maine; Roll: M653_435; Page: 820; Family History Library Film: 803435.

1871 Census of Canada; Springfield, Kings County, New Brunswick; Library and Archives Canada (http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/).

Daniel F. Johnson : Volume 26 Number 1936; Provincial Archives of New Brunswick (http://archives.gnb.ca/).

Civil War Home: Medicine

Civil War Home: Medical Staff

Medical School of Maine: Historical Records and Files, George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives, Bowdoin College Library. (https://library.bowdoin.edu/arch/archives/msmg.shtml)

Civil War in the East: 3rd Massachusetts Cavalry

The Civil War Index: 3rd Massachusetts Cavalry

American Civil War Medicine & Surgical Antiques

US Army Medical Department History

Ebenezer W. Peirce – An Appreciation, Part 2

Portrait of Ebenezer Weaver Peirce c. 1878

E. W. Peirce From the 1878 Indian History.

Who can look at a portrait of historian, genealogist and general, Ebenezer Weaver Peirce (1822-1902) and not wonder what he was like in life? As a white, privileged, nineteenth-century male, obsessed with research, we might suppose Peirce was a social bore whenever he was away from his Old Colony club fellows. He was honored in the public sphere, beginning in 1867 when the E. W. Peirce Encampment, Post 8, Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was established in Middleborough. In 1880, he was elected selectman of Freetown. He might well have been stereotypically stodgy, but Ebenezer stepped outside conventional lines a number of times.

Evidence for indecorous behavior (and a hearty sense of humor) came early in his Civil War service when “He was court-martialed for presenting burlesque shows to the troops of his command.” (He was acquitted at trial.)

Ebenezer widened his horizons through travel in the American South and West. Interactions with people from different backgrounds and cultures had lasting influence. For example, while virtually all the residents of rural Freetown were white, here’s an interesting snapshot of the Peirce household from the 1865 state census:

Ebenezer W Peirce – 43 – White – Born Freetown
Irine I Peirce – 40 – White – Born Freetown
Palo Alto Peirce – 12 – White – Born Freetown
John S Anthony – 24 – Black – Born North Carolina – Coachman

What Ebenezer’s wife, the former Irene Isabel Paine (1825-1900), and son Palo Alto Peirce (1853-1931) thought of this arrangement is unknown. How they reacted to the return of a husband and father with a mutilated body and life-long handicap is another good question.  Adjustment to life with one arm was hard enough for the vigorous, 40-year-old army commander (he continued to serve through the war), but adjustment for his wife and son may have been harder.

The 1870 US census shows the family together, however, on May 1, 1875, Irene was granted a divorce from Ebenezer. In June 1875, their son, Palo Alto married, suggesting dissolution of the marriage was arranged amicably. Ebenezer remained on his estate, and Irene moved back in with her mother and sisters in the same town.

 

Zerviah Gould Mitchell and Native Americans

Zerviah Gould Mitchell (1807-1898) was a Native American woman who commissioned Peirce to write the 1878 book, Indian History; Biography and Genealogy, Pertaining to the Good Sachem Massasoit of the Wampanoag Tribe, and His Descendants.

As a handicapped divorcee, ambling about a near empty house, Ebenezer likely welcomed a project to which he could bring exercise his research and writing skills. He surely thrilled to work with Mitchell, a direct descendant of the Massasoit who met Peirce’s own Mayflower ancestors.

The remarkable Mitchell was (briefly) a private school teacher, a wife and mother, and a lifelong advocate for native land rights. When she engaged Ebenezer Peirce to write the history, she was 71 years old, and as she explains in the book’s preface,

“I have come to the conclusion that Massachusetts does not intend to do me justice through its legislature… Before going to my grave, I have thought it proper to be heard in behalf of my oppressed countrymen.”

At a time in which bigotry against non-whites was the norm and the notion of the equality of women was laughable, that Ebenezer chose to collaborate with Mitchell was also based on his sense of justice. Zerviah wrote of Peirce,

“He feels, and has long felt, that the whole white race on this continent are vastly indebted to the aborigines of this country…and he most cheerfully joins in doing what little he can to cancel that indebtedness.”

 

Former Slave, Amanda Watts

It’s most likely, around the time of his divorce (1875), Ebenezer hired Virginia-born, former slave, Amanda Watts (born about 1843), to run his household. Though details have been lost to time, Ebenezer met Watts when traveling in the south (possibly, Washington, DC) and where Amanda was employed by a lodging house. She so impressed him with her competence that he persuaded with her to come north and become his housekeeper. The younger woman also impressed Ebenezer with her sensitivity regarding his physical limitations, for she assisted him with personal tasks in addition to running the house.

In the 1880 US Census, the Peirce household is comprised of 58-year-old Ebenezer and 37-year-old housekeeper. Amanda held her position for the next 12 years. In 1892, quiet domesticity was shaken up when Ebenezer added a new young bride and mother-in-law to the mix. It did not go well. (More to follow.)

Despite the upset, Ebenezer stood by his faithful servant. A provision of his will gave Amanda Watts a lifelong right to a house on the estate, at no cost. She never married and died of heart disease in the house Peirce provided for her at the age of “80 thereabouts” in 1922.

 

Never too Late for Love

A few doors down from the Peirce place (as seen on that 1880 census), lived Mary Ann (Chase) Gardner, widow of Jeremiah Gardner, and her three children. The eldest, a daughter, was Ida Estelle Gardner (1863-1945).

Ebenezer watched the teen grow to adulthood and become a school teacher. With an educator’s mind, Ida would have appreciated the literary accomplishments of the valiant, old soldier. How these two people, so far apart in age, grew close isn’t clear. As a factually inaccurate “Special Dispatch to the Boston Herald” in November 1892 describes it,

“The general is 74 years old and practically an invalid. About a year ago, thinking he was going to die, he expressed a wish that he might be married to the lady of his choice, Miss Rose Gardner, a school teacher in Assonet.”

Another account implies Ida’s motive for marriage wasn’t pity, rather,

“Gen. Peirce wooed and won the hand of Miss Gardner, a young school teacher of good family. They were married in great state while the groom was propped up with pillows in a chair, only recently having recovered from a severe scalding accident in which his arm was frightfully hurt.”

Whatever the state of Ebenezer’s health, marriage to a woman 42 years his junior was a powerful tonic. Evidence his spirits and health revived is found in the 1900 US census which shows Ebenezer and Ida had a child together. (The unnamed child was stillborn or died soon after birth.)

 

A General’s Final Battle: Housekeeper vs Mother-in-Law

Along with the sweet things Ebenezer enjoyed late in his life, came domestic discord that turned into public embarrassment when his long-time housekeeper and Ida’s mother, filed suits against each other in the Fall River court, designated legally as Amanda Watts v Mary A. Gardner and Mary A. Gardner v Amanda Watts.

The Boston Herald acknowledged the racial component in its coverage:

“The charges in both cases were assault and battery and under ordinary conditions would attract no attention. Amanda Watts is a colored woman who was once a slave.

 

Two weeks after the marriage, Amanda Watts left the house and occupied a dwelling provided for her by the general. Mrs. Mary A. Gardner, his wife’s mother, assuming the place made vacant by the colored woman’s retirement. Miss Watts visited the house many times, insisting on holding private interviews with her former employer. These proceedings became distasteful to the young bride, and eventually, there came domestic quarrels in which the general sided with his wife. This action caused the negro woman to become jealous, and the cases tried today show that she made an onslaught on Mrs. Gardner, who, to protect herself, was compelled to throw a pot full of hot tea at the crazed woman.”

The paper characterizes “the negro woman” as “jealous” and says the “crazed woman”  “made an onslaught.” While the white lady’s hurled pot of hot tea was “to protect herself.” Hearing contradictory evidence, the judge found both parties guilty and split the court costs between them.

Ebenezer tried to prevent the scandal. He was able to get the first complaints for disturbance and assault made by his mother-in-law against Amanda dismissed, and he paid the costs. Though he desired to please his new wife, Ebenezer understood that after 18 years as his personal servant and housekeeper, the relationship that existed between himself and Amanda Watts couldn’t simply be turned off.

E. W. Peirce homestead c. 1878 (from Indian History)

Summing Up

August 14, 2017 marks the 115th anniversary of Ebenezer W. Peirce’s death. In addition to my gratitude for the genealogies and sketches Peirce left to posterity, I wanted to add respect that he acknowledged injustice and oppression in his time and never defended it. I love that he screwed up occasionally, because that makes him human. As a rich, white guy, he had advantages. He also lost an arm on the battlefield, and got right back to the war. He raised a fine son, and let an unhappy wife go in peace. He kept on writing. Then wham! as a septuagenarian, Ebenezer let love in again. Some thought him a bit odd, but I think he was wonderful…well, all except those sideburns.

Notes, Sources & Resources:

  • Wikipedia: Ebenezer W. Peirce; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ebenezer_W._Peirce.
  • Indian History; Biography and Genealogy, Pertaining to the Good Sachem Massasoit of the Wampanoag Tribe, and His Descendants is available to read at Archive.org. Note 1: Disappointingly, Mitchell’s Native American genealogy doesn’t start until page 211 and is brief. The bulk of the work is a chronicle of English militia men and natives slaughtering one another. Note 2: Ebenezer’s son, Palo Alto Peirce, was an artist and contributed illustrations to the book.)
  • GenealogyBank.com: (1) Boston Herald (Boston, MA); November 30, 1892; Page: 6; ROMANTIC AND OTHERWISE. (2) Boston Herald (Boston, MA); January 27, 1893, Page: 12; Threw a Potful of Hot Tea.
  • Ancestry.com: National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) United States Census, Massachusetts, Bristol County, Freetown, 1850, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920.

Ebenezer Weaver Peirce: An Appreciation (Part 1)

When you investigate colonial families in southeastern Massachusetts, at some point, you will bump into Ebenezer Weaver Peirce (1822-1902). He was a Freetown son, an ardent military man, historian, and genealogist. I’m deeply indebted to him for his contributions to the New England Historical and Genealogical Register in the 1860s, which include transcriptions of grave markers, genealogies of his own Peirce family, and sketches of related PaineRounsevill and Davis families. I trust (but verify) his work because Peirce lived with the families he chronicled. Census records show these folks were his neighbors.

Peirce’s research and writing focused on the “Old Colony,” a term used to describe a region, once part of Plymouth Colony, home to native peoples for at least 10,000 years before Europeans settled in 1620, and bounded on three sides by the Atlantic Ocean. The area encompasses today’s Plymouth, Bristol and Barnstable counties. Ebenezer was a member of the Old Colony Historical Society (founded in 1852), and is listed among its directors in 1883 and 1892.

His reputation secured him a book commission from the remarkable Native American woman, Zerviah Gould Mitchell (1807-1898), whose struggle for property rights usurped by ‘the whites’ deserves to be more widely known. The 1878 collaboration, Indian History; Biography and Genealogy, Pertaining to the Good Sachem Massasoit of the Wampanoag Tribe, and His Descendants, is absolutely fascinating (read the book over at Archive.org).

While modern scholars have dismissed Peirce’s Indian History for its flawed methodology, Peirce’s Colonial Lists. Civil, Military and Professional Lists of Plymouth and Rhode Island Colonies 1621-1700, a formidable undertaking, remains an invaluable tool for New England research.

Peirce’s prose style isn’t the plodding and treacly stuff typical of the Victorian era, except when he recounts military experience. With Revolutionary War veterans in his Peirce family history, especially, he betrays sentimentality and hero worship.

I’d rather omit martial stuff entirely from my profile of Ebenezer’s profile. In fact, those so inclined can click to Wikipedia’s fine entry detailing his military career. However, on June 30,1862, when Ebenezer was 40 years old, the midpoint of his life, while he led Union Army troops at White Oak Swamp in Virginia, – Ebenezer’s right arm was shot off at shoulder.

For a proud man in his prime, losing the ability to perform the most mundane tasks: dressing, bathing, shaving, eating, – was a blow that would devastate most people. Yet, three months after the trauma, Ebenezer joined his 29th Massachusetts Infantry regiment at Harper’s Ferry (Virginia) on October 8, 1862. He continued to serve (with leave for illness) and did not officially resign until November 8, 1865.

 

An intriguing private life

While it’s clear Ebenezer had a strong will and drive, he didn’t pile up his accomplishments all alone; after June 1862, he wasn’t physically able. And his life involved others.

He and Irene Paine (1825-1900) had married at the end of 1849. They had three children, but only one son survived. What was it like when this husband and father returned home with a mutilated body and life-long disability? We can take Ebenezer and Irene’s divorce, a rare event then, as evidence that some relationships suffered.

But Ebenezer forged new relationships, too. He brought to Freetown from Virginia, Amanda Watts (abt 1833-1922), a former slave. She lived in and ran Peirce’s household until 1892, when he married Ida E. Gardner (1863-1945), a woman 40 years his junior. (Did she fall for those crazy sideburns, I wonder?)

And while we can only imagine how Ebenezer’s various domestic dramas played out over the years, we know one battle, between two women, ended up in a Fall River court.

Please stay tuned for Part 2…

…in which I’ll share some interesting details of Ebenezer Peirce’s life and the people in it, – including juicy newspaper accounts of a court case for assault and battery.

 

Notes, Sources & Resources:

  • The image of Ebenezer W. Peirce (with crazy facial hair) is from the 1878 Indian History he wrote with Zerviah Gould Mitchell.
  • NE Historic Genealogical Society (AmericanAncestors.org); New England Historical and Genealogical Register: Vol 19, Page 47 (Rounsevill);
    RECORD: 1866, VOLUME:20 (1866), PAGE213; Posterity of William Davis, of Freetown | RECORD1861, VOLUME 15 (1861) PAGE 237 – A brief Sketch of the Early Branch of the Pain Family, Settled at Freetown, Bristol, Mass.
  • Old Colony History Museum – http://www.oldcolonyhistorymuseum.org/
  • Recollecting Nemasket: A Visit to Zerviah Gould Mitchell, 1891; http://nemasket.blogspot.com/2011/01/visit-to-zerviah-gould-mitchell-1891.html

The Five Wives of Benjamin Franklin Hathaway – Part 6 Susan Elizabeth Brown

May 25, 1862 is the day that Benjamin Hathaway’s domestic drama series jumped the shark for me.

Our 54-year-old, four-time widower had a grown daughter (Sarah, 22), two young daughters (Angeline, 6 and Helen, 5) and two sons, Benjamin, 8 and James, 2). The Hathaway household was in need of a woman with skills in childcare and home management. Surely, Benjamin’s eldest, Sarah, stepped into the breach left by her latest dead step-mother, but fostering four half-siblings would have been overwhelming.

If marriage was the solution to this dilemma, the best qualified candidates would be  found among local widows with a child (or children) near in age to his own youngsters. Instead, Benjamin married another single woman, approaching 30 years his junior. Did he not consider his eldest –  choice of bride under these circumstances was, at the least, unseemly.

American Wedding Dress circa 1860, blue print, solid blue trim.

Susan E. Brown may have worn a wedding dress like this lovely example circa 1860.

The Brown family decreases…

Susan Elizabeth Brown was 26-year-old, school teacher, and her parents, Samuel Rounseville Brown (1809-1865) and Susan L. Ashley (1809-1854), were younger than her husband. Susan’s mother had died eight years before, and four siblings had died too. When she married, Susan had three, younger siblings, Josiah, Mary, and Emily.

Samuel R. Brown was a New Bedford carpenter, essentially, the same age as Benjamin Hathaway. Since 1854, he had also been a widower with children. Samuel had in Susan his own housekeeper, caregiver and childminder. Would he have supported his eldest daughter’s marriage to an older and encumbered man? Maybe.

Samuel’s only son, Josiah, was nearing 24 years, Mary, 22, and his youngest, Emily, 12; the Browns could get by without their big sister looking out for them. However, as the Browns’ lives played out, Susan never stopped looking out for her Brown siblings, even as she navigated her eventful marriage to Benjamin Hathaway.

Three months after Susan married, (August 10, 1862) her father married Ruth Barnaby (Evans) Rounseville, a widow with four children.(1) The 1865 state census of May 1, shows a household led by Samuel and Ruth Brown, with Emily Brown and four Rounsevilles (Caroline, 24, Imogene, 21, Walter, 15, and Mary, 12). Over in the Hathaway house, after Benjamin and Susan, there is Susan’s sister, Mary F. Brown, five Hathaways from prior marriages… and two more, Franklin (2) and Edmund B. (9 months). – Just three weeks later (May 21), Samuel Brown was dead at age 56.

It appears that Benjamin secured a house near his own, on Purchase Street where the unmarried Browns resided after their father’s death. The 1870 federal census, shows a household comprising Mary (30), who kept house, – Josiah (32), who was a baker, – and Emily (21) taught school, as her sister Susan had done. A ripple of happiness touched the Brown – Hathaway families the next year when Emily Ann married Albert Swift (November 28, 1871), though the idyll was a short one.

In November 1873, Emily (Brown) Swift died of consumption (tuberculosis), at the Hathaway Purchase Street address.(2)  Six months after Emily (in May 1874), Susan’s brother Josiah died, also at the Hathaway house. It seems apparent that Susan took in her ailing siblings, and that she her sister Mary nursed them until the end. Susan and Mary were the sole survivors of their Brown family.

…while the Hathaways increase

Whether Susan had to cajole her husband to utilize his resources to help her family, or whether Benjamin was naturally disposed to generosity, I don’t know. On the face of it,  Benjamin was demonstrably pleased to have a fresh, new missus.

Ten months after the wedding, Susan gave birth to a third son for Benjamin, Franklin Hathaway. The next year, Edmund Brown Hathaway was born, and Samuel Brown Hathaway came along in 1868. A daughter named, Susan Elizabeth Hathaway, arrived in Oct 1869. Finally, John Gael Hathaway was born in 1871, when Benjamin was 63 years old.

As early death was all too common in the 19th century, not all of Susan’s children survived. Edmund died at 14 months (dysentery); five-year-old Samuel succumbed to whooping cough in 1873, the same year her sister Emily died. However, the remaining three of his children with Susan reached adulthood when Benjamin, at long last, made one of his wives a widow in November 1890.

“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” (3)

Obelisk inscribed "It is finished," B.F. Hathaway monument in Oak Grove Cemetery (New Bedford, MA) [Find A Grave contrbutor, goose ]

B.F. Hathaway monument in Oak Grove Cemetery (New Bedford, MA) [Find A Grave]

Ten years after Benjamin’s death, Susan remained in the family home on Purchase Street. The 1900 census shows she shared it with step-daughter, Sarah, and Sarah’s husband Frederick Mickell, unmarried stepdaughter, Angeline and stepson, Benjamin, as well as her children, Susan and John, and Mary Brown, her sister.(4) Early in 1903, Susan was diagnosed with stomach cancer and she died six months later on October 4.

In New Bedford’s Oak Grove Cemetery, Benjamin Franklin Hathaway’s family plot is an interesting one. The eye is drawn initially to the granite obelisk thrusting skyward; one side reading, “IT IS FINISHED.” and below that, “B.F. Hathaway.” Around it are the matching, traditional, head stones.

Grave stone of Susan E. (Brown ) Hathaway, 1836-1903, in Oak Grove Cemetery, New Bedford, MA

Susan E. (Brown) Hathaway, Oak Grove Cemetery, New Bedford, MA [Find A Grave contributor, goose, 2015.]

No matter how long the marriage or how fruitful, equal honors are accorded to each Mrs. Hathaway. To me, these memorials convey a lovely sentiment, and stand as testament to deep love in this family forged through heartbreaking loss and upheaval.

However, in the matter of the towering gray stone, meant to portray masculine accomplishment, –  it doesn’t work for me. Knowing the family history, it suggests an elephant seal surrounded by a harem.

Notes:

(1) Ruth Barnaby (Evans) Rounseville was the widow of Walter Scott Rounseville who died in California in 1853. In 1855, she was a neighbor of the Browns in Freetown.

(2) Emily’s husband, Albert H. Swift, died of the same disease that killed his wife, just two years later (1875).

(3) The closing lyrics of “The End” by Paul McCartney from the Beatles’ Abbey Road album, 1969.

(4) Susan’s sister, Mary Frances Brown, never did marry. She continued to live with the Hathaways until her death in 1913.

Sources:

New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, Massachusetts; Massachusetts Vital Records, 1840-1911; New Bedford marriages 1862.

New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, Massachusetts. Massachusetts State Census 1855, 1865.

New England Historical and Genealogical Register; Vol 20 (1866); Posterity of William Davis of Freetown; Gen. Ebenezer W. Peirce.

Ancestry.com; Bristol County, Massachusetts Probates, Vol 256-257,1889-1891.Ancestry.com; Massachusetts, Death Records, 1841-1915.

National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); United States Census 1840, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910.

Find A Grave; www.findagrave.com/

Wikipedia; The End; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_End_(Beatles_song)

Wikipedia: Northern elephant seal; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_elephant_seal

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.

The Five Wives of Benjamin Franklin Hathaway – Part 4: Amy Ann Shaw

Amy Ann Shaw was something of a 20-year anniversary gift to her parents, Job Shaw (1782-1862) and Amy Macomber (1788-1882).

Job Shaw was a Rhode Island born cooper (barrel maker) who married his Westport (MA) love in 1809, and their first child was born there the same year. Within a few years, Job and Amy moved to New Bedford, where the whaling and shipping trade assured Job’s skills would be in demand, and it secured them a respectable living. (Job Shaw, the cooper, was known well enough for his 1862 death to be noted by the Boston papers.)

Job and Amy’s fifth child, Job Lawton, was born in 1821, after a dozen years of marriage. For the next eight years, the couple managed work, marriage and child-rearing. Though the event wasn’t planned, the birth of a daughter, on October 25, 1829, delighted them.

Amy didn’t have siblings near in age, she would have been fascinated by the activities of her elders. Amy’s oldest sister, Phebe, married when she was a toddler. In 1837, when she was eight, her sister Adaline married, and died the year after, perhaps, her first direct experience of loss. Her brothers, Frederick and Job, married, too. They were both ambitious men (like Benjamin Hathaway), active in the grocery trade, and lived near. They likely adored their baby sister.

What did Benjamin know, – and when did he know it?

Benjamin certainly knew the Shaws. Any day, he might, literally, bump into the elder Job or his sons; they lived and worked in the same part of town. The Shaws would have been aware of the sorrows at the Hathaway house. Events would have been common knowledge among the neighbors. How long did Benjamin know the Shaw’s daughter before she became his intended? It’s possible Amy Ann and her mother may have offered to help with housekeeping or care for Sarah and little Benjamin, Jr. in the aftermath of Helen’s death (March 1852).

However, and whenever, they met, something about Amy inspired hope in Benjamin that the third time would be a charm.

Silk Wedding Dress, 1851, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Wedding Dress c. 1851 | Credit: Metropolitan Museum of Art (Archive.org)

On Monday, May 9, 1853, the Reverend William Stowe married the 45-year-old widower to the 23-year-old Miss Shaw.

Nine months and three days after tying the knot (February 12, 1854), Amy presented Benjamin with a son. No one will be surprised to learn, he was named Benjamin Franklin Hathaway, Jr.

Benjamin, senior, congratulated by family, friends, and his network business acquaintances over the next weeks, must have felt reborn. His midlife marriage to a younger woman proved his desirability. A healthy son proved his virility. He had his longed for heir. He could relax, contemplate happiness. Toward the end of 1854, Amy became pregnant again.

Benjamin junior’s first birthday was surely cause for celebration with friends and family. The former house of sorrow resounded with life: baby giggles, teenage Sarah’s laughter, and the buzz of conversations. Though busy serving drinks and cake, and wiping sticky little hands, inside herself, Amy felt the warm glow of contentment.

Three months after that happy gathering, in May 1855, Amy went into labor and died delivering a stillborn child. She was 25.

Gravestone of Amy Ann (Shaw) Hathaway, Oak Grove Cemetery, New Bedford, MA

Amy Ann (Shaw) Hathaway, Oak Grove Cemetery, New Bedford, MA [Find A Grave contributor, goose, 2015.]

Amy Ann Shaw’s tenure as Benjamin F. Hathaway’s wife was the briefest, lasting one year, 11 months and 26 days. Though her life was tragically cut short, she did secure immortality, as mother of Benjamin’s son.

Next time: Benjamin finds an angel

 

 

 

 

 

Sources and References:

  1. Ancestry.com. Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988; Westport and New Bedford.
  2. Ancestry.com. NARA, United States Federal Census, 1810, 1820, 1830, 1840, 1850; Westport and New Bedford, MA.
  3. GenealogyBank; American Traveller (Boston, MA); Thursday, May 17, 1855, Page 4 (Deaths).
  4. GenealogyBank: American Traveller (Boston, MA); Saturday, June 14, 1862, Page: 3 (Deaths).