The Ballad of Martin Hurney

There is no song called, “The Ballad of Martin Hurney,” but there should be. if anyone had a life as woeful as that of “Oh my darling Clementine,” (who drowned in her gold digging father’s mine shaft). He came to mind as I read the MassMoments topic for January 21, Sixth Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment Organized.

It’s not that Martin was a member of the 6th Massachusetts, he wasn’t. He had the luck to miss out on being attacked by a crowd in Baltimore, Maryland where a fellow Lowell, Massachusetts man was killed, but it wasn’t long before he himself enlisted (25 May 1861) with the 2nd Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry for a three-year term.

At five-foot eight and one-half inches tall, with blue eyes and brown hair, Martin likely cut a fine figure in his uniform. The 21-year-old Irishman might have been itching to march off to glory, and away from an unexciting shoe and boot making trade. Money played into the decision as well.

In 1860, the first Shoe Makers Strike occurred in Lynn, Massachusetts, not far from Lowell. Industrialists were not paying a living wage to skilled workers. Martin’s pay as a Union private would be a steady $13 a month for his three-year hitch. He couldn’t know, then, the true cost of his decision.

In July 1861, The 2nd Massachusetts Company G left Camp Andrew in West Roxbury for Maryland. For the remainder of the summer and the fall, Martin  guarded supply trains at Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, not too bad. The next order from command, however, was to pursue the rebel general “Stonewall” Jackson down the Shenandoah Valley.

The men were driven hard. They endured hunger, lack of sleep, cold and rain. They slogged through miles upon miles of mud and slept on wet ground. In the battle of Winchester, Virginia in May 1862, Martin Hurney suffered a gunshot would to the hand.

On 29 August 1862, he was admitted to Post Hospital Convalescent Camp in Alexandria, Virginia and remained there five months. He received a surgeon’s discharge for disability on 5 February 1863 with a doctor’s note: “Vertigo and Syncope from cardiac disturbance.” In other words, Martin suffered from dizziness and fainting due to heart irregularities.

Martin’s gunshot hand must have healed, but that underlying heart problem should’ve been concerning. Yet, he apparently felt well enough, four months later, to join the navy. Did he mention his medical condition to the recruiting officer? And, would he have cared at that point in the war? Having served on  the gunboats, Ohio and Savannah, he helped maintain the blockade on southern ports until he was discharged on 6 August 1864.

Days later, on 11 August 1864, Martin Hurney joined the Massachusetts Cavalry at Dorchester. In 1885, long after his death, his wife Mary tells us in a letter to the Secretary of Interior, that Martin thought handling horses would easier than his navy duties, but his health soon deteriorated. He fell from his horse “from which he received injuries to the Bowels sent him to Hospital for two months or more at the close of the war. “

Mary also explains why Martin despite serious health conditions, kept enlisting in the service: “Martin Hurney being a poor man and unable to work at his trade and large Bounties being offered as an inducement and unfitted for service in the Infantry and still anxious to serve his country to the end of the Rebellion…”

It was part patriotism and part economic survival, which is pretty much the same reason folks join the military today.

So yes, Martin survived the war. In 1866, he married in Detroit, Michigan, Mary Monahan and the couple had several children. Martin’s health got worse. He often could not work at all. The young family lived in dire poverty.  Martin Hurney died on 4 May 1874, not of a heart condition, but of tuberculosis. He was 34 years old.

There was great suffering and a heap of woe in Martin Hurney’s life. He was a striver, he loved his country, and he should have a ballad. But, you know what? I think his wife, his widow, Mary (Monahan) Hurney deserves to celebrated in song as well.

Mary was not yet 30 years old when Martin left her with three little boys, and no money. She, somehow worked to keep them going for six years. In 1880, she finally applied for a widow’s pension. The government ignored her and put her off for 13 years. In 1893, nearly 20 years after war veteran Martin Hurney’s death, the government conceded the debt owed, and specified monthly payment rates for Mary and the surviving children (to age 16), – but the documents in the pension file do make clear that the widow and sons ever received money.

Sources:

Oh my Darling Clementine, Traditional; Genius.com; https://genius.com/Traditional-oh-my-darling-clementine-lyrics

Mass Moments; https://www.massmoments.org/moment-details/sixth-massachusetts-volunteer-regiment-organized.html

Ancestry.com; American Civil War Soldiers; Historical Data Systems.

The Great New England Shoemakers Strike of 1860; New England Historical Society; https://www.newenglandhistoricalsociety.com/great-new-england-shoemakers-strike-1860/

Soldier’s Pay In The American Civil War; “The Civil War Dictionary” by Mark M. Boatner; Civil War Home; civilwarhome.com/Pay.htm

National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); US Civil War Pension Files; Martin Hurney.

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

 

 

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.

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

The Five Wives of Benjamin Franklin Hathaway – Part 2: Ann Maria Bliffins

Benjamin Franklin Hathaway found his first bride in his hometown. It is tempting to think, having set himself up in the world, he returned to Freetown to claim his childhood sweetheart. However, Ann Maria Bliffins (Bliffens / Blivens) was 20 years old and Benjamin at 26, had been away for about 10 years, making a longstanding romantic relationship doubtful.

Ann’s girlhood

Ann was the youngest child of Anson and Rachel (Read) Bliffins. They married in 1796 and produced sons right away (Anson Sheffied and William Read). Their good fortune was short lived. Over the next eight years, three girls were born, – and died (Rebecca, Mary Ann and Mary).

Rachel gave birth in 1808 to another son, Thomas Valentine. He thrived. Rachel likely reconciled herself with the belief daughters weren’t part of the Lord’s plan for her. Six years passed. In May 1814, as all sorts of tender things sprang to life, Ann was born.

The baby would have been a source of worry with every tiny sniffle, and later, with every bump suffered in a tumble. Anson and Rachel’s memories of little girls lost would never have been far from mind. Yet, Ann passed all the danger marks. It’s natural to suppose an unexpected,and only daughter would be doted on by older parents, but I have reservations.

Ann’s eldest brother, Anson, was a generation older and out of the house. Mere days before Ann’s first birthday (1815), her next brother, William (17 years), went off to sea. (This was not at all unusual in Southeastern Massachusetts when most men became either farmers or seamen.)

In 1822, when she was just seven years old, Thomas, the brother she would have toddled around the house after, obtained his Seaman’s Certificate in Newport, RI, – a week before he officially turned 13. This is surprising for a boy with two living parents, and the only son at home. (1)  Little Ann likely wept bitter tears at his departure, and, perhaps, for years afterward. She had suddenly become an only child, and she may have felt very lonely.

It was common for an unmarried daughter to care for her aging parents until they died. As a young woman, Ann certainly engaged in cooking and cleaning, laundering clothes and linens, keeping fires going, and acting nurse when her mother or father were sick. Ann knew what the future held for her as she neared adulthood. Her decision to marry tells us she wanted more in life.

However it was exactly that Ann and Benjamin found each other, these Hathaway and Bliffins families were certainly acquainted in that small rural community. The betrothed couple professed their marriage vows in Freetown on Sunday, August 27, 1834.

Married life in New Bedford

There is every reason to believe Benjamin was an attentive husband, but the couple remained childless for six years. At last, the birth of Sarah M. Hathaway (2), on September 21, 1840, was recorded in New Bedford. That healthy little girl (3) must have brought great joy to the couple.

In 1843, another girl was born, named Ann (Anna) Franklin. The little one died of “brain fever” before her second birthday in summer of 1845. Ann became pregnant soon after, and another girl, named Ann Franklin, was born the last day of June 1846, but died at four days, of a “diseased heart.” Ann gave birth in November 1847 to yet another Ann Franklin. The parents may have dared to hope with her, but she died, at nine months, of cholera.

Having buried a third daughter in August 1848, weathered pregnancies, births, sicknesses, and seeming unrelenting grief, Ann herself fell ill. One month later, September 1848, Ann Maria (Bliffins) Hathaway was 34 years and four months. (4) Three days before her passing, Ann and Benjamin marked their 14th wedding anniversary.

Grave marker of Ann Maria (Bliffens) Hathaway in Oak Grove Cemetery, New Bedford, MA | Image from Find A Grave contributor, "goose," 2015.

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

Ann was the help meet who made a home for her husband and gave him children. She also moved that household, at least twice, probably three times, as her husband made more money, and bought real estate that improved his finances, and gained him respect in the New Bedford community. Benjamin Hathaway was certainly stunned; without Ann, how would he get along? As a recent study shows, men aren’t very good at multitasking. With a motherless eight-year-old, a house, and business demands, Benjamin was in trouble.

Then, as today, goodhearted family, friends, and neighbors would have done what they could to help, but that couldn’t be counted on as a permanent solution.

Next time: More wives and more children

Notes:

(1) Thomas Valentine Bliffins’s (1808-1886) compelling reason for leaving remains unknown. He proved well-suited for life abroad, as he became a Master Mariner and ship captain. He lived in San Francisco, CA for decades and appears, to have never married.

(2) Benjamin and Ann’s daughter, Sarah, may well have been named for Benjamin’s older unmarried sister (Sarah “Sally” Hathaway, 1797-1866). Sarah lived in to manage her brother’s household, at least, once (1855).

(3) Sarah M. Hathaway (1840-1925) married Frederick A. Mickell, buried him and passed away, just a month short of her 85th birthday.

(4) In modern medicine, jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and / or skin) is a symptom, not a cause of death. Ann probably died of liver failure, which resulting from an underlying cause.

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,1810, 1820, 1830, 1840, 1850, 1860, 1870,1880.
  3. Ancestry.com. Massachusetts State Census, 1855 and 1865.
  4. Ancestry.com.US City Directories, New Bedford, MA 1830-1890.
  5. Jaundice – National Library of Medicine – PubMed Health
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001259
  6. http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2017/01/27/multitaskingwomenmen

The Five Wives of Benjamin Hathaway – Part 1

 

What  comes to mind when you find out a person has been married five times? I thought, Oh…there’s got to be a bit of scandal here. Did a wife or two run off? Did one wife, or two wives, or more wives, meet mysterious ends? 

Now I feel a bit ashamed of my suspicions, for the true story of five-times married Benjamin Franklin Hathaway calls to mind Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events – minus the snark.

Benjamin F. Hathaway was born on May 1808, in Freetown, Massachusetts. He was the seventh known child, and fifth known son of Jael and Mercy (Davis) Hathaway. Like most families in the early American republic, this Hathaway family of middling circumstances, farmed with all able bodies pitching in. By 1830, Jael (and Mercy) were empty-nesters, all their children flown.

Benjamin probably left home in his early teens. The youngest of five Hathaway, sons, his future depended on acquiring a skilled trade. It’s likely, his father, Jael Hathaway (or someone in the family circle) found the boy an apprenticeship with a master carpenter and that would lead him away from rural Freetown. In the southeastern Massachusetts of the times, the action was in the village of New Bedford. There the whaling industry would expand opportunities for many workers, and the favored few with capital would reap incredible riches.

Bringing to mind early business opportunities in New Bedford, MA.

Whaling grew New Bedford, MA from a village into a bustling city with great wealth.

Building business and acquiring property

Benjamin F. Hathaway plied his carpentry skills on A. Robeson’s wharf as a ship joiner, and found employment as a house wright, during the 1830s and 1840s. But Benjamin wasn’t content to remain an employee. Sometime before the year 1849, he partnered with Thomas Booth to establish Booth & Hathaway, house-wrights and ship joiners.

Booth & Hathaway at 158 North Water Street, soon added lumber supply to its offerings. By 1852, Booth & Hathaway was listed in the city directory at numbers 157 and 158 North Water street. The 1860 federal census indicates that Booth had left the partnership, and Benjamin remained in business on North Water Street as a lumber dealer.

That year’s enumeration shows that Benjamin F. Hathaway owned real estate valued at $18,500 and personal property worth $2500. For perspective, compare this with the state of my direct ancestor, John P. Roane, a grocer in Lowell, MA who listed $1000 in real estate and $200 in personal property in that same 1860 census. Yeah, Benjamin had done well for himself (of course, it helped that he was American born and Protestant).

During the next years, the nation suffered the bloody War of the Rebellion (Civil War), which affected business and fortunes, for good and ill. Things changed for Benjamin, for at the end of 1865, he pulled out of the lumber market and launched a new venture in coal, which appears to have been a sound move. Benjamin became a respected member of the New Bedford Board of Trade.

Hathaway Coal employed 10 men in operating that coal business at 590 Acushnet Avenue through 1889, the year before Benjamin died. Among the assets mentioned in his will (1888), there is…

real estate situated on the east side of Acushnet Avenue at the foot of Willis street in said New Bedford and known as the wharf property.”

Benjamin never completely retired. After 40 years as a proprietor, his company would keep him engaged to some degree, even as he entered his eighth decade.

In many respects, Benjamin Franklin Hathaway emulated his Boston-born namesake (Benjamin Franklin, 1706-1790). He mastered a trade, kept learning, worked hard, and leaped when he recognized an opportunity. With persistence, Benjamin dramatically improved his material circumstances.

What about love?

Ben wasn’t all about business, not by a long-shot. That he married a series of five women, and sired (at least) 15 children is evidence that he pursued ambitions on the domestic front with as much zeal and doggedness as he did commerce. This part of the story begins with this transcription from New Bedford vital records:

Benjamin F. of N. B., and Ann Maria Bliffins of Freetown,
int. Aug. 27, 1834.

Benjamin turned 26 in May that year. He had worked perhaps, 10 years, to become a reputable ship joiner and house wright, a man able to support a wife – and a family.

Next time: First wife, Ann Maria Bliffins

Sources and / or references:

  1. A Series of Unfortunate Events; Wikipedia; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Series_of_Unfortunate_Events
  2. United States Federal Census, 1820-1880.
  3. National Park Service, New Bedford Whaling; https://www.nps.gov/nebe/learn/historyculture/stories.htm
  4. New Bedford Guide: New Bedford Early Villages; https://www.newbedfordguide.com/new-bedfords-early-villages/2013/04/09
  5. Wikipedia; New Bedford; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Bedford,_Massachusetts
  6.  Ancestry.com; New Bedford, MA; Town and City Clerks of Massachusetts. Massachusetts Vital and Town Records.

The Brief Life of Hannah Roane – An Irish Mill Girl

This month is the 150th anniversary of the death of my Irish immigrant aunt, Hannah Roane (February 6, 1866), a Lowell mill girl. Never having married or had children of her own, the last vestige of Hannah’s existence disappeared 50 years later, in 1919, when her sister-in-law, Mary died. Mary was my ancestor, and the last person who might have recalled Hannah’s face, her voice, or a quirk that made her unique.  While the essence of long dead relatives (with rare exception) remain mysterious, it is often possible to learn much about the lives they led, as is the case with aunt Hannah.

Born around the year 1828 in County Galway, Ireland, Hannah was a few years older than her two brothers, John and Patrick, who also came to the world-famous, textile manufacturing city. Their family suffered the nightmare of the “Great Hunger” (1845-1849), the years of nationwide starvation and disease that took a million lives, and sent another million Irish out into the world in a desperate longing for a better life.

At this time in rural Ireland’s history, one son would take over his parents’ land and cottage. The anointed one (and his wife and children) would work the land and care for the elders. Perhaps, one lucky daughter would have a dowry enough to make a decent marriage (to another family’s heir). All the other sons and daughters of typically large, Roman Catholic families were out of luck. If they didn’t opt to become a priest or a nun, they faced a monotonous, solitary, laboring life.

Perhaps, it’s not so surprising then, that young, unmarried, Irish women came in such great numbers to America. In contrast with women of southern European cultures, Irish women were traditionally independent, capable and the money managers of the family. Many women made the voyage to America alone, and earned passage money for family members left in Ireland. Earning that money was no piece of cake.

Hannah Roane was on the vanguard of the Irish immigrants who replaced the Yankee female textile workers (the first American women to work outside the home), whose numbers peaked in the 1870s. For fourteen hours a day, six days a week, men, women and children labored amid the intense, ceaseless noise of machinery and inhaling air-filled with cotton or wool fibers. [Woman at Loom – American Textile Institute]Girl at factory loom, 19th century.

There were strikes in the 1830s over terrible working conditions, and, in 1845, workers agitated for a 10-hour work day, – a fight they lost. After that factory work became much less popular with native-born women. Then (as now), immigrants arrived to take the difficult, low-status, and low-paying jobs abandoned by those who had other options.

Mill Girls, 1870s

Mill Girls, 1870s

There were ten large mill complexes in Lowell, among them, the Massachusetts, Merrimack, Appleton, Hamilton and Boott mills; I don’t know which one employed my aunt. In a state census for 1855, Hannah was a resident in a boarding house with 30 other women, most of whom were New England born. As an Irish immigrant, Hannah would have begun her career working the least desirable, lower-paying jobs in the carding and spinning rooms. There is evidence that Hannah advanced in her career, however; in 1858, she opened an account with the Lowell Institution for Savings and listed her occupation as weaver, which was a skilled and better paying position.

I like to think that Hannah was among the Irish “mill girls” who spent some of their hard-earned on themselves and were considered good dressers compared to their Yankee counterparts.

Ten years after I first found Hannah in Lowell, her single working life-style had altered. The 1865 census lists 35-year-old Hannah in the household of her brother, John Roane, who ran a grocery business to support his wife, two sons and an infant girl. Hannah was enumerated as an operative (mill worker), but her death, just months after this census, makes it likely that she was, in fact, too sick to work. She died of tuberculosis.

For all her independence, courage, and endurance required to toil in the mills, the only blessing Hannah may have had in her brief sojourn on Earth, was to have been cared for, and to have died among family.

It is good to know Hannah had loved ones near in the end, and I would love to salute her memory and leave it at that, but for one sneaking suspicion, – I think that Hannah was “patient zero” for the contagion that nearly wiped out the family in Lowell.

Three years after Hannah’s passing, John Roane succumbed to an illness evidence suggests, almost certainly, was tuberculosis. Of John’s three children who lived into adulthood, two died of tuberculosis. What’s more, a few years after John died, the widow Mary, remarried and gave birth to two more sons, who both died of tuberculosis. 

Hannah certainly left lasting memories of love and laughter in the hearts of her brother’s family, but she may also have left them a tragic legacy.

 

Notes | Sources | Resources

Images: University of Massachusetts Lowell; http://library.uml.edu/clh/All/mgi06.htm; http://library.uml.edu/clh/All/mgi01.htm

Erin’s Daughters in America; Hasia R. Diner, 1983.

Mill Girls of Lowell; Jeff Levinson, Editor, 2007.

Living on the Boott – Historical Archaeology at the Boott Mills Boardinghouses, Lowell, Massachusetts; Stephen A. Mrozowski, Grace H. Ziesing, and Mary C. Beaudry, 1996.

Women at Work – The Transformation of Work and Community in Lowell, Massachusetts, 1826-1860. Thomas Dutton, 1979.

Living in the Shadow of Death – Tuberculosis and the Social Experience of Illness in American History; Sheila M. Rothman, 1994.