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).

The Five Wives of Benjamin Franklin Hathaway Part 3: Helen M. Pratt

Benjamin mourned first wife a year, a decent, respectful interval. He was a man in his prime, at 41, and far from done. He embarked on marriage round two with Helen M. Pratt, another Freetown girl, and 18 years Benjamin’s junior. The age gap suggests Benjamin’s prime motive was not to create a partnership of equals at home, but, rather, to procreate.

Though he had an heir in nine-year-old Sarah, the female (then, as now) was perceived as less than the male. While Benjamin certainly loved his daughter, he believed all his striving, his shrewd investments, and years of sweat building his carpentry trade and lumber business would be for nothing, if he couldn’t leave it to a son. And Helen, a healthy and agreeable 23-year-old, would make him a suitable wife and mother of his progeny.

A mariner’s family

Helen was born on August 3, 1826 to John Vilett Pratt and Melancy Pickens. She was, perhaps, the third child and third daughter. Census records for 1830 and 1840 suggest four girls were in the household, but the only names on record are Charlotte and Helen.

Helen’s father was a captain of commercial sailing vessels, probably, in coastal waterways (according to his 1868 obituary, he began his career as a cabin boy on an African slaver). He would have routinely been away. Melancy and her girls would have missed him, fretted over the dangers he faced, and prayed for his safe return. Homecomings would have been times for celebration, tempered by prayers of gratitude. Such a life would have taught the three Pratt women patience, self-reliance, and to enjoy simple blessings.

A sister marries

When 20-year-old Charlotte Pratt told her younger sister she’d accepted George Hall’s proposal of marriage, joyful, girly shrieks echoed through the Pratt house. This experience with wedding preparations would engage the entire family, and affected Helen deeply.

A wedding dress would have been made or a best frock refashioned, but more importantly, Charlotte required everyday clothing, linens, and goods essential to set up housekeeping. Food and drink needed to be procured and prepared for the newly united Hall and Pratt families to enjoy, after the modest ceremony.

On Charlotte’s big day in 1843, summer blossoms of yellow, orange, blue and white dotted meadows and roadsides. Helen wept with that mix of happiness and sadness that arise from events that are both endings and beginnings. As the feasting wound down, Charlotte and George would’ve tried to quietly slip away, but not before the sisters shared an emotional embrace.

I imagine, Helen consoled herself with thoughts of the sort of aunt she would be to her sister’s children. Alas, that scenario never came to pass. Three years after she married, Charlotte Pratt Hall died, and left no children.

Becoming Mrs. Hathaway

American, silk wedding dress 1845-1850.

Silk wedding dress 1845-1850. Credit: Archive.org; Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Helen’s father and Benjamin Hathaway had likely done business together in New Bedford, maybe, as ship captain and shipwright; maybe, Pratt delivered the lumber Benjamin sold. Whether John acted the matchmaker, or Benjamin was the pursuer, in 1849, Helen was presented with the biggest decision of her life.

The bustling port of New Bedford, would be more interesting than sleepy Freetown. Taking over a widower’s household that included a step-daughter might daunt another woman, but Helen Pratt was competent and confident she could make and keep a good Christian home.

Helen also realized that year, she was Charlotte’s age, not the age she married, but 23, the age she died. Perhaps, Helen saw Benjamin’s offer as a blessing.

On Wednesday, October 3, 1849, Baptist elder, Samuel S. White, married the widowed carpenter and the “maiden” in Freetown. Nothing further appears on record until February 21, 1852 when the death of Benjamin and Helen’s one-day-old daughter, Charlotte M. Hathaway. The following month, Helen Pratt Hathaway died  from “Congestion of Brain.” She was 25 years old, and like her sister Charlotte, she had no surviving child.

Gravestone of Helen (Pratt) Hathaway, Oak Grove Cemetery, New Bedford, MA.

Helen (Pratt) Hathaway, Oak Grove Cemetery, New Bedford, MA [Credit: Find A Grave contributor, goose, 2015.]

Alone again

Benjamin’s second marital outing lasted, less than two and a half years, and resulted in another lost child and another dead wife. He spent another year in mourning, but he hadn’t forgotten his grand plan. He would marry again.

 

Next: Third time a charm?

 

 

 

 

Sources and References:

  1. Ancestry.com. Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988; Freetown  and New Bedford.
  2. Ancestry.com. NARA, United States Federal Census,1830, 1840; Freetown, MA.
  3. Wikipedia; en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Master_mariner
  4. GenealogyBank; Newport Mercury (Newport, RI); Saturday, April 18, 1868, Page: 3; Capt. John V. Pratt.
  5. Smithsonian Magazine; Queen Victoria Dreamed Up the White Wedding Dress in 1840; http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/queen-victoria-sparked-white-wedding-dress-trend-1840-180953550/
  6. Death was with Them: Old medical terms; http://www.tngenweb.org/darkside/medical-terms.html

An Aged Lovers Triangle

The Boston Herald – Monday August 1, 1892

HUSBAND ALMOST KILLED

Had a Bloody Fight with His Wife’s Aged Lover

[Special Dispatch to the Boston Herald]

Fall River, July 31, 1892. Alexander Pittsley and Charles Hersom and his wife,  Jane Elizabeth, each more than 70 years of age, who live at Slab bridge, Freetown, were yesterday locked up in the central police station.

Pittsley has, up to within six months, lived a sort of hermit’s life. He resided in small hut and earned his living by doing odd jobs.

About six months ago, Hersom and his wife came here from Norton , and established themselves at Slab bridge.

The wife pitied Pittsley so much that she urged her husband to let the old hermit become a member of the family circle. This was done and all went swimmingly for a while, until it became apparent to Hersom that his wife and Pittsley had fallen in love.

A row ensued and Hersom was fined for assault and battery on his wife. This was about a month ago.

Just after the trial, Pittsley, who still remained at the house and Mrs. Hersom eloped, taking the husband’s horse and wagon and a load of his household goods. They established themselves in Norton.

Hersom was evidently content to get rid of his erring spouse, for he made no attempt to follow them.

Friday night, however, Pittsley and Mrs. Hersom came back to the Slab Bridge home for another load of furniture. The wagon was piled high with goods and the rig hidden away  in the woods. Then Pittsley and Mrs. Hersom paid a visit to the Pittsley hut. They found Hersom there.

The two old men began a bloody fight and Hersom was badly battered about the face and had an arm injured. He was almost killed. Pittsley and his companion became alarmed at the condition of the deserted husband, and started off on the road to Taunton, while Hersom sought Officer Marble.

The officer captured the couple after a lively chase of three miles.They had become weary and were resting at the roadside when they were placed under arrest.

The quartet came to this city yesterday, Pittsley and Mrs. Hersom being handcuffed.

Hersom’s arm was in a sling and his face was decorated with cuts and sticking plaster.

Pittsley is well known to the police here having been arrested for minor offences. The exact nature of the charge to be preferred against him is unknown.

While the 1892 press hyped this incident and played it for laughs, I was moved that a man and woman in their seventh decade of life, were alive to love, and new possibilities. (I will concede that taking off with the horse, wagon, and household goods was not the most honorable exit strategy.) I wanted to know what happened to Charles H. Hersom, Jane Elizabeth Hersom, and Alexander Pittsley.

That Pittsley “almost killed” Hersom is hyperbolic. The article portrays him as ambulatory, with an arm in a sling and minor facial wounds. And Hersom was a soldier in the Union Army, with the Massachusetts 4th Regiment of Infantry; he must have gotten a few licks in on Alexander. Furthermore, we are told the month before, Charles Hersom was fined for beating up his wife. And yet, the Second District court sentenced the abused wife, Jane Elizabeth Hersom, to two months, while Alexander Pittsley was sent away for four months to the House of Correction for assault.

After that, Jane Elizabeth Hersom disappears from record.

Charles H. Hersom, stays around for a long time.

About four years after the incident, in 1897, Charles H. Hersom married wife number three, Margaret (Cunningham) Lester. He was 75 and she was 37.  Margaret bore him four daughters, in addition to three children he had with wife number one, an Irish lass named Mary. He married her in 1864 and the family were living in Canton, Massachusetts for the 1870 census. Charles liked lived in Freetown with his new young wife and kids until 1913, when after a six-day bout with bronchitis, he died, at 93 years of age.

Pension Index card for Charles H. Hersom.

Index card shows Charles H. Hersom got an Invalid pension in 1877; his minor daughter got a benefit in 1915 and wife Margaret collected a widow’s pension in 1917.

For Alexander Pittsley, who served the harsher sentence, life was rarely kind. That he lived in a hut “like a hermit” and had been “arrested for minor offences” are clues that he suffered some form mental illness that kept him on the margins of society. On November 4, 1898, at 74 years and 10 months, Alexander starved to death “off Summer Street” in the town of Foxboro.

I want to think that Alexander and Jane Elizabeth, who discovered love in winter, were able, at least for a moment, to find joy in each other.