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 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.

Three Girls Named Philip

One of my favorite things happened recently, – I made contact with a new cousin and genealogist. After I’d sent along my line of descent (the way cousins introduce themselves), I received this gentle correction,

BTW, your 8th-g-grandmother was Phillipa CHASE, daughter of Benjamin and Phillipe (Sherman) CHASE.

To start off, I wholeheartedly thank every thoughtful and generous person who has spotted my errors and got me back on track. (Please do keep it up.) Now, this is a rare thing, but I don’t always agree with suggested corrections, and this is one of those times.

You’ll work out from that note, the presumed mistake was that I gave the above Chase and Sherman females the masculine moniker, “Philip.” However, it wasn’t a goof; I did it deliberately. Despite our society’s sensibility that a girl must have a girl’s name, – I believe this line has three females named Philip and they embody a tradition that can be traced in records from 1652 through 1795.

Who would give a girl a boy’s name?

Perhaps it’s no surprise, this story begins with a man, Philip Sherman / Shearman (1610-1687). Born in England, he came to Roxbury, Massachusetts in 1633, married Sarah Odding there the year after, had a few kids, then had a disagreement with church elders. That precipitated the family’s move to Rhode Island, an early bastion of religious tolerance. By 1638, Philip was making himself useful to the new settlement at Portsmouth, and 10 years later (1648), Philip Sherman was appointed General Recorder (secretary) of Rhode Island. He was described as

An excellent penman (his records remain in Portsmouth), educated and wealthy for the times. [1]

Philip spent years growing Portsmouth, growing a personal estate, and growing his family. In addition to three girls, he and Sarah had seven (or eight) boys, and none was named Philip in 1651, when Sarah told him for the eleventh (or twelfth) time, she was pregnant. Both were Into their forties, financially secure, and doubtless feeling pride in worldly accomplishments and public honors, It’s likely, in the interest of preserving health and happiness, the Shermans agreed this child would be their last.

God had been good to Philip thus far; He clearly approved of his conduct and his plans, Having deferred the honor so many times, surely God would send him a Philip Sherman junior. When Sarah’s time came, Philip would have been humbly grateful to the almighty for preserving the lives of his beloved helpmeet and the newborn. No doubt the daughter was a surprise, but that was the divine will, and Philip named the baby just as he’d planned.

Miss-Spelling and Miss-Interpretation

Oh yes, misspellings and other errors crop up in official records, and all too often. (I expect you have some frustrating, and / or funny examples of your own.) But, before you relegate my female Philips to the category of mistakes, gentle reader, I offer two points for your consideration:

(1) Philip Sherman / Shearman, General Recorder of Rhode Island, as noted above, has been recognized for his excellent handwriting. This ability and attention to detail were key qualifiers for creating official documents for the colony. It’s reasonable to expect that what Philip wrote, he meant to write. For example, on 15 Apr 1678, Philip Sherman deeded some land to…

Benjamin Chase my son-in-law and my daughter Philip his wife.

Three years later, he made his will (dated on 31 Jul 1681)…

Philip Shearman, yeoman, aged seventy-one years, of the Town of Portsmouth… to my daughter Philip ten ewe sheep.

The man, Philip, the colony’s recording secretary, in two documents, spelled his daughter’s name exactly the way he spelled his own. He meant to do that. To avoid confusion, he specified “daughter.”

 (2) There is consistency in records that give the name Philip to females through time. Examples from Freetown, Masachusetts records and compiled indexes include marriage listings:

CHASE, Benjamin (1639-1731) & Phillip / Phillopa [SHERMAN] (1652-); ca 1672?; Portsmouth, RI / Freetown

HATHAWAY, Jacob & Phillippa / Philip? CHASE; 28 Jan 1696/7, 1696; Taunton

We see the compiler’s instinct to femininize the form for the bride, but that eloquent “?” tells us the record said Philip. Here’s a birth

Born in freetown Philip Chase the daftor [daughter] of Benjamin Chase born 5 day of July 1679 ———

Image excerpt from Freetown, MA town register showing

Click to enlarge the image.

The Jacob and Phillip (Chase) Hathaway who married in 1696, decided to name a son Philip, so our female Philip skipped generation. However, Jacob and Philip’s daughter Hannah Hathaway, married Lot Strange and named her first daughter, born in 1722, Philip Strange, and we hit the jackpot with marriage records for this lady:

Philip Strange to John Payne (Paine) Jr. 10 Apr 1738

Philip Pain to Seth Chace (Chase) 7 Nov 1751

John Crandon of Dartmouth & ye widow Philip Chase of Freetown were married December ye 14th – –  – 1768.

Over three decades, with different town clerks, we see the same, masculine name, attached to women. That’s consistency. Finally, nearly 30 years after the 1768 marriage, among the town’s compiled death records (1686-1844), is a 1795 listing for Freeborn Paine (Payne) which gives the wrong father, but note the detail on the mother:

Freeborn Payne, son of Eben.r & wife Philip (m.n. Strange) died Sept. 11, 1795.

I believe, the sources out there giving Philippe, Philopa, Phillipa, etc. as given names for these Sherman, Chase and Strange girls were just reacting to cultural conditioning, making the Philip of the records into an appropriately feminine form. Is that correction really necessary? How many researchers would conclude that Philip & Benjamin, Philip & Jacob, Philip & John or Seth were married male couples in colonial Massachusetts? Not likely.

I think we should relax, be accurate, and accept – like that founding father of Portsmouth, that Philip is a fine, worthy and noble name for a child of any gender. But I have a final surprise for the finish, – the original Philip Sherman was not himself named for his father, but for his mother, Philippa (Ward) Sherman (1577-1610). Betcha didn’t see that coming.

Notes & Sources:

Philip (name meaning), Greek for a lover of horses. Wikipedia; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_%28name%29

Unisex names; Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unisex_name

[1] New England Families Genealogical and MemorialAmerican Historical Society, editor,1916; reprint, LaVergne, TN: BIBLIOLIFE, LLC, 12 May 2012), Page 363.

AmericanAncestors.org (New England Historical Genealogical Society); RICR  1:209, 217, 230, 236. | Great Migration Study, Philip Sherman profile.

FamilySearch.org; Family History Library, Salt Lake City, UT, Film # 1993524.

Ancestry.com: Torry, Clarence A. New England Marriages Prior to 1700; Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988; Freetown, MA.