Mystery Monday: The Disappearance of George McClellan: Success In Denver Turns To Smoke

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George McClellan left his new bride Imogene and infant son George in Hanson, Mass. and arrived in Denver, Colorado by early December 1873. He probably traveled by railroad, including the Old Colony Railroad from Hanson, The New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad to New York City, the  Baltimore and Ohio Railroad from New York City to St. Louis, and the Missouri Pacific Railroad from St. Louis to Kansas City and on to Denver.

 

The first identified record of George R. McClellan in Denver is from an announcement published in Daily Rocky Mountain News on 6 December 1873  stating that Frederick William Gromm formed a business partnership with George R. McClellan for the Denver Trunk Factory.

 

1873-12-06 Gromm McClellan Ad

Advertisement of the Denver Trunk Factory, announcing the new partnership of Frederick W. Gromm and George R. McClellan. Daily Rocky Mountain News (Denver, Colo.) 6 Dec. 1873, p. 1.

 

1873-12-06 Denver Trunk Factory Ad

Earlier in 1873, German immigrant F. W. Gromm formed a trunk company with J.J. Miller. However, Gromm and Miller’s partnership ended in October 1873, perhaps due to financial or personal troubles. Gromm then advertised that he would continue the trunk manufacturing business alone at the “old stand” on Planter’s house block, 223 16th St. By December 1873, Gromm had found a new partner for the trunk business – the newly arrived George R. McClellan. Since George McClellan had previously worked as a mason, it seems unlikely he brought any particular trunk manufacturing expertise to the partnership. Instead, McClellan primarily brought a financial investment to the partnership, assuming an equal share in the risks and rewards of the business. It is possible that Barnabas Everson provided his son-in-law George R. McClellan with some of this capital. From December 1873 – March 1874 and August 1874-November 1874, Gromm and McClellan bought daily and weekly ads in newspaper Daily Rocky Mountain News to advertise their Denver Trunk factory.

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Gromm & McClellan Denver Trunk Factory ad. Daily Rocky Mountain News (Denver, Colo.) 16 Aug. 1874, p. 1.

The Denver Trunk Factory, Gromm & McClellan and George R. McClellan all had entries in the 1874 and 1875 Denver City Directories:

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Denver Trunk Factory in 1874 Denver City Directory, p. 101.

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Gromm & McClellan in 1874 Denver City Directory, p. 122.

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George R. McClellan in 1874 Denver City Directory, p. 156.

 

By the spring of 1874, McClellan had some confidence in the success of the Denver Trunk Factory, and he made several purchases of investment properties. However, throughout his time in Denver he lived in a rented apartment on the second floor of the Planters House at 223 Sixteenth Street above the Denver Trunk Factory.

 

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1864 image of Planters House (white hotel mid-right) and intersection of Blake and Sixteenth Streets. In 1873, Gromm & McClellan’s Denver Trunk factory was based in the “old stand” at Planters House, and George R. McClellan rented a room in Planters House, whose address at the time was 223 Sixteenth Street at the corner of Blake Street. Photograph courtesy of the Denver Public Library.

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1868 Map of Denver showing Planters House at the intersection of Blake and Sixteenth Streets. Map courtesy of the Denver Public Library. Planters House was listed in this map on Block 41, buildings 1 [two and a half stories] and 1a [two stories].

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1874 Denver Map. Intersection of Blake and Sixteenth Streets in center, including Planters House. Map courtesy of the Denver Public Library.

 

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1875 Denver City Directory, p. 132.

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1875 Denver City Directory, p. 290.

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1875 Denver Directory, p. 168.

 

But George McClellan’s success soon went up in smoke. Just before midnight on 23 February 1875, George McClellan had to flee his rented room as the Planters House caught fire. McClellan rushed below to his factory on the lower level to pull out of the building as many trunks and pieces of luggage and he could. Some pieces were saved, but the entire building quickly burned. The following morning the Daily Rocky Mountain News reported the fire:

A Big Blaze. A Fire Licks Up the Top Portion of the Old Planter’s House. A Great Hub-bub and a Lively Tumbling of Things – The Losers and Their Losses. The ancient Planter’s House, at the corner of Blake and Sixteenth streets, is a roofless shell this morning. It is one of the old landmarks, and, as contrasted with its stately neighbors, the Inter-Ocean and American, has simply encumbered the corner for years, instead of giving place to a structure in keeping with its surroundings, and the metropolitan character of the Denver of to-day. At 11 o’clock last night a fire burst out through the roof on the Blake street front. R. L. Hatten, of the American House, discovered the flames, and gave the alarm. By the time the first stream, which was remarkable only for its weakness, got to playing friskily against the window panes, the flames were whipping over the entire north end of the roof, and working rapidly down into the second story. The other hose companies came up promptly, and turned loose their streams, but the fire crowded steadily along the whole length of the building, until a portion of the roof tumbled in. The firemen, however, by well-directed efforts, succeeded in confining the flames to the top floor, and bringing them under control. In the meantime the wildest excitement prevailed. The two streets were crowded with spectators. Heads protruded from every window in the neighboring buildings. The blinding storm and rush of smoke and sparks made sight-seeing anything but a pleasure and well nigh an impossibility in the streets. The stores and shops and wash-houses under the burning building were emptied of their contents in short order. The show cases, medicine jars, and perfumeries in Dingle’s drug store, on the corner, were jerked out and dumped on the opposite sidewalk, but were afterwards removed into the office of the American House. The trunks, valises, and the like, big and little, in F. W. Gromm’s manufactury, on the Sixteenth street side, were rolled end over end to the Inter Ocean side, while the costly fabrics, sewing machines, etc., in Bell’s merchant tailoring shop were lugged to places of safety. A few cases and boxes of minerals and fossils were carried out of Hamilton’s museum. Wing Lee’s wash-house was gutted in a twinkling, and an up-town merchant, who had run six blocks, and was panting for breath, was heard, above the din and racket, to accost the frightened Celestial with – “Where the h-ll’s my wife’s washing?” The chairs, shaving cups, and like appurtenances of Julius Pearse’s barber shop were carried to the American House steps, as also were moveables in Weiner’s tobacco store. The losses may be approximately summed up as follows: Wm. Dingle, druggist, $3,500 – $1,200 insurance on fixtures, none on stock; H. Bell, merchant tailor, $200 – including the value of two silk dresses undergoing cleansing; Julius Pearse, barber, $1,500 – no insurance; A. Weiner, tobacco dealer, $2,000 – uninsured; Professor Hamilton, owner of museum, $500 – no insurance; F. W. Gromms, trunk manufacturer, $500 – insured for that amount; Ludwig Schrader, shoemaker, probably $25; Dr. Whitehead, furniture, instruments, fixtures, etc., $100. The building is owned by Major Bradford, and is leased to John W. Smith, renting for $166 per month. There is no insurance on the building, and the loss to its owner cannot be much. Two or three of the second story apartments were occupied, but most of the rooms were vacant. It is thought that the fire caught from a defective flue leading from one of the occupied rooms. [“A Big Blaze”, Daily Rocky Mountain News (Denver, Colo.) 24 Feb. 1875, p. 1.]

George McClellan himself was one of the “two or three” tenants renting an apartment on the second story of the Planters House, so in the course of one evening he lost both his residence and a good portion of his business. The destruction of Gromm and McClellan’s company was a devastating financial blow to the partners. Although they were able to salvage some of the materials, McClellan did not have enough spare capital to re-invest in the efforts to rebuild. Gromm recovered the $500 he had insured on the business, and was determined to begin again. But McClellan called it quits, and returned home to Hanson, Massachusetts empty-handed.

Gromm continued his business alone, and went on to grow the Denver Trunk company into a major producer, eventually becoming one of Denver’s leading businessmen. A biography  later reflected that Gromm “has been continously in business in Denver since 1873. He started in a small way, but has built up a business that makes him the leading trunk manufacturer of Denver.” [The City of Denver and the State of Colorado (1890) p. 124.] George R. McClellan’s role as Gromm’s partner from 1873-1875 was forgotten in local Denver histories.

While George was away in Denver from 1873-1875, his wife Imogene was raising their son George Cameron McClellan with the support of her parents, Barnabas and Deborah Everson. During this time Imogene joined the Marshfield Agricultural and Horticultural Society and during subsequent years submitted entries for various categories at their annual fair (known today as the Marshfield Fair). In February 1874, the infamous Sturtevant murders occurred, and Barnabas Everson’s sawmill was a landmark in the murder trial, since William Sturtevant had cut through Everson’s cedar swamp and mill along the old Native American footpath called “Tunk” to visit his uncles in Halifax, Mass. William Sturtevant murdered his uncles and their housekeeper and stole money from their house. On his return along Tunk behind Everson’s sawmill, Sturtevant dropped bloody coins along the same path on his way back to his home in South Hanson that were later used as evidence against him during his murder trial.

George McClellan returned to Hanson in the spring of 1875. He had left for Denver in the fall of 1873, and had been away from his family for almost two years. By July of 1875 Imogene was pregnant with their first daughter, who was born 3 April 1876 and named Lillian in honor of Imogene’s middle name.

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Birth record of Lillian McClellan, born Hanson 3 April 1876. George McClellan was listed as a resident of California, and his occupation was brick mason.

Curiously, on Lillian’s birth record it states that George R. McClellan was residing at the time of her birth in California. Nothing else is known about George’s time in California, but it appears that he therefore returned to Hanson for only a short time following the burning of Gromm & McClellan’s trunk factory in 1875 before he tried his luck in California.

George returned to Hanson before 20 February 1879 when he petitioned the U.S. Circuit Court for naturalization, stating that he was born at Pictou, Nova Scotia on 8 May 1848, and that he arrived at Portland, Maine on 8 September 1869. He declared that he was  a bricklayer residing in Hanson.

Tragedy struck the McClellan family one month later. On 25 March 1879, their 6 year old son George Cameron McClellan died of diphtheria, which he caught at the #4 schoolhouse in Hanson where several children were sick with the disease. His 19 year old teacher Bertha Alice Hood died 26 February 1879 of diphtheria. In 1881, the death of another #4 student and several sick schoolchildren caused a “diphtheria scare” in Hanson and parents kept their children out of school for an entire term [see my article on the history of teachers of Schoolhouse #4, now the Hanson Historical Society headquarters].

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Death record of George Cameron McClellan, aged 6

George Jr.’s death devastated his parents and caused additional tension in their marriage. Shortly after burying his son and namesake at Fern Hill Cemetery in Hanson, George R. McClellan determined to return to Denver in an attempt to make his fortunes yet again, leaving his grieving wife Imogene and their 3 year old daughter Lillian behind.

 

Would George McClellan be successful his second time in Denver?

 

Up Next: George McClellan Fights Against and Participates in Denver’s Corrupt Political Scene

Previously: Part One: The Disappearance of George Roderic McClellan

Previously: Part Two: The Disappearance of George Roderic McClellan: His Roots

Mystery Monday: The Disappearance of George Roderic McClellan: His Roots

1903 (possibly) McClellan Genealogy by Imogene McClellan-002.jpg

Imogene (Everson) McClellan was an avid genealogist. About 1903, several years after her husband George Roderic McClellan disappeared, Imogene began compiling her own genealogy. While doing so, she wrote on a small slip of paper all that she could remember about George McClellan’s immediate family, and gave it to her daughter Lillian McClellan. Lillian’s grandniece Maria McClellan discovered it years later, when she inherited Lillian’s papers. It was the first clue to discovering the origins of George Roderic McClellan.

It reads: McClellan Family

Dougal McClellan, son of Dougal McClellan and Mary Scott, born in Edinburg, Scotland married Christina Cameron, b. I[n]verness, Scotland Oct. 12 1817.Married 1834. Came to Nova Scotia soon after their marriage. Their children: Ellen Cameron McClellan, Mary Catherine McClellan, Annie McClellan (Sherman) born March 23 1840, John Duncan McClellan, William Murdock McClellan, George Roderic McClellan, James McClellan, Alexander Cameron McClellan.

 

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McClellan Family Genealogy, written by Imogene (Everson) McClellan for her daughter Lillian McClellan, circa 1903. Image courtesy of the author.

 

George Roderic McClellan was born 8 May 1848 in Pictou County, Nova Scotia, the youngest of eight children born to Dougal McClellan and his wife Christina Anne Cameron, who was also called Christiana Cameron. Dougal died when George was young and the widowed Christina, unable to support all of her children, had to place them in local homes, working as domestic servants or learning trades. While the specifics of George’s childhood are still elusive, he was likely placed in a home where he apprenticed as a mason. By the age of 12 his mother had left Nova Scotia entirely and was working as a domestic servant in the household of Dr. Charles W. Fabyan of Providence, Rhode Island, a wealthy Methodist physician originally from Maine. George’s eldest sister Mary Catherine followed their mother, where she soon found work as a governess in Providence. George’s second eldest sister, Christina Anne “Annie” McClellan, found work in Portland, Maine, where she met merchant John Doane Wells Sherman. They identified themselves as husband and wife in the 1860 Census in Portland, but their wedding was performed 14 January 1863 in Providence, Rhode Island. When George turned 21 he decided to move from Nova Scotia to seek work in New England, arriving in Portland, Maine in September 1869 and then making his way to Boston, Massachusetts. He may have gone to meet up with his sister Annie (McClellan) Sherman, whose husband John worked in Boston. John D. W. and Annie Sherman boarded at Adams House when they stayed in Boston. Together John and brother Thomas B. Sherman operated the trading company Sherman Bros. & Co. at 234 State Street from at least 1867-1870. As of the 1870 census, ‘Geo R. McClellan’ was working as a mason and boarding in Boston, Massachusetts with grocer Martin Godrin (29, b. Ireland).

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George Roderic McClellan in the 1870 U.S. Federal Census,  a 25 [sic, 22] year old bricklayer residing as a boarder in Boston, Massachusetts on 14 July 1870

In the spring of 1872 Barnabas Everson hired George McClellan to help with construction at his South Hanson saw-mill, including a tall brick chimney stack to help reduce the threat of fire from the wood-scrap-drive fires which help fueled the saws. George likely took the Old Colony train from South Station in Boston to the South Hanson train station, located right next to Everson’s mill on Main Street. The train station is still in use today. By 1888 Barnabas Everson had become the fifth-richest man in Hanson, MA, through income derived from his sawmill and from his agricultural produce on his 300+ acres of farmland.  [See my article about Barnabas Everson’s safe, which is held by the Hanson Historical Society]. Everson invited the 24 year old George McClellan home for dinner, where he met Barnabas’s 20 year old daughter Imogene.

 

 

 

Possibly tintype of George R. McClellan? Tintypes common ca 1860s-70s.

Undated tintype of George Roderic McClellan. Probably late 1860s or early 1870s. Courtesy of the author.

Imogene Everson say 1870s?

Undated image of Imogene Lillian Everson.  Photographer A[mos] H. Locke, 16 Main St., Plymouth, Mass. Possibly near the time of her marriage, Locke was a photographer in Plymouth in 1872. Courtesy of the author.

They courted and were quickly married in Barnabas Everson’s home on Indian Head Street in Hanson, 3 June 1872, by East Bridgewater Methodist minister Rev. William Freeman Farrington. The choice of a Methodist minister probably reflected George McClellan’s faith with his Scottish-Canadian roots rather than the Everson family’s religion. Barnabas Everson joined several faith groups throughout his life, as did his children Richard and Imogene Everson. As a child, Imogene was briefly raised in the South Hanson Baptist Church. By the mid-1850s, however, the Eversons became captivated by the Spiritualist movement and remained Spiritualists until the 1890s. In the 1890s Imogene began taking Christian Science courses from Mary Baker Eddy. She remained a member of Church of Christ Scientist until her death.

 

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Marriage record of George R. McClellan and Imogene L. Everson in Hanson, Mass. on 3 June 1872

Imogene became pregnant immediately following her marriage. Their first child, George Cameron McClellan, was born 5 March 1873 – 9 months and 2 days following their wedding day. His first name honored his father and his middle name was in honor of George’s mother’s surname Cameron.

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Birth record of George Cameron McClellan, the first child of George Roderic McClellan and Imogene Lillian Everson, born in Hanson, Mass. 5 March 1873

Having no property and little cash to his name, George and his new wife Imogene McClellan moved into a rent-free house on the east side of Indian Head Street near Maquan Pond in South Hanson owned by Imogene’s mother, Deborah (Bates) Howland Everson. Deborah had lived there with her first husband, Warren Howland, until he died of consumption in 1846, followed shortly thereafter by the death of their infant son and only child Warren Howland Jr. After the 1848 marriage of the widowed Deborah (Bates) Howland to Barnabas Everson they rented out the Howland house for extra income, and Barnabas and Deborah  Everson moved into a newly built house across the road on the west side of Indian Head Street, where they raised their family, including daughter Imogene. In 1873 new father George McClellan was seemingly well situated to step into the family businesses which his father-in-law Barnabas had founded.

Barnabas Everson, like George McClellan, had trained as a mason and trained as a shoemaker, which he worked at when construction opportunities were unavailable or off-season. Barnabas was a talented businessman and soon began acquiring tracts of farmland, woodlots, and cedar swampland in South Hanson, turning his talents to market gardening and selling his agricultural products to larger towns on the South Shore and Boston. He built a sawmill by the South Hanson train station, using lumber from his woodlots and swampland in the cedar swamp in South Hanson, which manufactured box boards and shingles. Everson later sold the sawmill to John Foster and continued to farm until his death.

Everson’s eldest son, Richard A. Everson, two years older than his sister Imogene, followed in his father’s footsteps but also went his own way in business. In his teens, Richard apprenticed and worked as a shoemaker for several years before going to work in Barnabas’s sawmill. Richard then took an interest in cranberry farming and began acquiring a large number of cranberry bogs in Hanson. He invented the “Cape Cod Champion Cranberry Picker” and eventually became the director of the New England Cranberry Sales Company. Richard’s “varied interests are indicative of his enterprise and versatile mind, and the success he has made in his different undertakings shows his executive force,” according to a biography.

Perhaps the career of Richard A. Everson can provide some insight into his brother-in-law George R. McClellan’s next steps. Family stories, you may recall, suggested that George McClellan may have moved to Denver after leaving his family in Hanson, Mass. behind in the 1890s. But it turns out that George went to Denver much earlier than that, and not only once, but two times during his marriage to Imogene.

Hoping to strike it rich in the pioneer town, George McClellan first left for Denver in late 1873, leaving behind his wife Imogene and their infant son George. Gold and silver were mined in Colorado and then filtered through the city of Denver, where business and real estate opportunities abounded in the rough-and-tumble city. After a childhood spent apart from his family, and his adolescence and young adulthood spent moving from place to place in search of employment, he had finally formed roots in Hanson, Massachusetts with his new family. But after one year he was itching to move again, and this time -West.

But what led to such a huge move? A handsome and cocky young man, George likely bumped heads with his father-in-law Barnabas Everson. Although the two men seemingly had much in common, it appears that George McClellan was unwilling to step into his father-in-law’s business and wanted to come into wealth on his own. Barnabas Everson may have been a hard man to work under, since even his own son Richard A. Everson only spent a few years working in Barnabas’ saw mill before starting his own cranberry company in Hanson and building his own success in tandem with his father. However, if Barnabas and his son Richard had disagreements, they nevertheless worked closely together, both on a personal level and physically within the same town. For some reason, however, George McClellan wanted to put 2,000 miles between them. Barnabas himself had an appreciation for risk-taking, having successfully grown his own businesses from small start-ups into large, successful operations. Perhaps George heard about business opportunities from his brother-in-law John D. W. Sherman, whose trading company was also booming in the 1870s. And perhaps at first George even received seed money from Barnabas Everson to support his endeavors in Denver.

But would George McClellan strike it rich in Denver?

 

Up Next: Part Three: George McClellan’s First Adventures in Denver, Colorado

Previously: Part One: The Disappearance of George Roderic McClellan

Mystery Monday: The Disappearance of George Roderic McClellan

McClellanDisappearance

Part One: Family Traditions: The Disappearance of George Roderic McClellan

My grandmother’s house, the childhood home of my father, has been in the family for several generations. It holds countless memories and stories, and the story of its origin looms large in family lore. My grandmother is a McClellan from Hanson, Mass., but the introduction of the family surname to Hanson was surrounded in a century-old scandal. Built in 1903 for my great-grandmother Imogene Lillian (Everson) McClellan, the house was intended to be a fresh start for Imogene and her three children. Her husband, Nova Scotian-born (with Scottish roots) George Roderic McClellan, had abandoned the family several years previously, and by 1903 Imogene determined to file for divorce in absentia. She sold their house on Main Street in Hanson and built a new one on Phillips Street.

 

The story goes that one day during the 1890s, George said he was taking the train to Boston to purchase a rug for their house, and he never returned. Imogene hired a private investigator who reported a lead that George may have gone to Denver, but the trail ran cold and no further details could be determined. George was an itinerant bricklayer who had been hired by Imogene’s father, Barnabas Everson, one of the wealthiest men in Hanson, to help build a tall brick chimney for Everson’s sawmill. There he met Barnabas’ daughter Imogene, and they married in 1872. They had four children: George Cameron, born the following year who died young, Lillian, born 1876 who never married, Roderic Cameron b. 1882 and Sherman Barnabas b. 1886 who married the Ramsdell sisters Edith and Bessie, respectively. But sometime after Sherman’s birth, the McClellan marriage crumbled, and when Imogene built her new house in 1903, it was on land inherited from her recently deceased father Barnabas Everson, and thus stood in the shadow of the brick chimney that George McClellan had built years ago.

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The Barnabas Everson sawmill chimney stack, built by Barnabas Everson and George R. McClellan ca. 1871-1872, Main Street, South Hanson. Photograph courtesy Mary Blauss Edwards, taken 2010.

 

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My grandfather sitting on the roof of the family house, with the Everson chimney in the background. Photograph courtesy Don Blauss.

And that was that, so far as the memories of George McClellan lingered in family stories.  A bit of Scottish pride from the surname itself, but mysteries surrounding the man who introduced it to the family. Many stories are preserved about Imogene, a tiny woman with a big legacy, but George always remained a question mark in the eyes of her grandchildren.

 

Over the past decade I have been trying to unravel the story of George McClellan, his origins, his time in Hanson, and his disappearance. The digitization of records from Canada to New England to Denver have been vital in this research process, and over the years I have pieced together incredible details about his life. It’s a tale filled with broken dreams of striking-it-rich turned to literal smoke, small and large family drama, and public scandals of political corruption involving bribery, gambling and prostitution leading to a tragic and deadly race riot. There were many twists in the process of uncovering the complicated life of George Roderic McClellan and his family left behind in Hanson – as well as discovering that following his disappearance, he went on to have a second family, entirely unknown to his first.

 

But let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

 

Up Next: Before arriving in Hanson, Mass. in 1872, where did George McClellan come from?

New England’s Dark Day, as later told by Jane Austin

Richard Miller Devens, Our First Century (Springfield, Mass: C.A. Nichols & Co.) p. 88.

Richard Miller Devens, Our First Century (Springfield, Mass: C.A. Nichols & Co.) p. 88.

235 days ago today, on 19 May 1780, New England experienced a mysterious “Dark Day”. The sky was reported as dark or yellow, and the sun was reported as red or completely obscured. Ash filled rain fell from the sky in some areas, and some reported the smell of smoke in the air. For many it was taken as a possible sign of the coming apocalypse. Today it is believed that massive forest fires in and near present-day Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario were the cause of New England’s Dark Day. Tales from that day were passed down for generations.

Over one hundred years later, Plymouth writer Jane Goodwin Austin [not THE Jane Austen] included a chapter about New England’s Dark Day in her 1890 novel Dr. LeBaron and His Daughters: A Story of the Old Colony. Austin’s book is both a delight and a challenge to interpret today, as a modern Plymouth historian. Austin was fascinated by local history and genealogy, and enjoyed reading old records and letters, parts of which often make their way into her work. But she also loved gathering supernatural tales from Plymouth’s “old folks” – which often had a least a kernel of truth to them. Austin then often re-interpreted or further exaggerated these tales as well, so attempting to get to the original “truth” of these superstitious tales, if ever there was truth to the matter, can be tricky.

The chapters of Dr. LeBaron and His Daughters are woven throughout with the fictional tale of Plymouth witch “Mother Crewe” (although she was probably a much-exaggerated composite of several women of Plymouth who were called witches in the 18th century – a blog post for another day!). Austin’s “Dark Day” chapter culminates in Mother Crewe’s death, in which her reputation was in part restored by rescuing a lost boy (a fictional Butler child), before she died in the Plympton graveyard, atop the grave of her (fictional) daughter Bathsheba.

Beyond the fictional tale of Mother Crewe, Austin’s chapter “The Dark Day” is a good example of her walking the line between truth and fiction or exaggeration. Much of her physical description of the day surely had some basis in tales passed down.

“The strange yellow light and sultry murk of the air, so oppressive in its earlier hours, steadily increased as the day drew toward night… Darkness had now fully fallen, a darkness so intense that it seemed ponderous and palpable rather than the mere absence of light… The Day of Judgment has come! was the cry of those who believed, and non-believers no longer scoffed at such possibilities, but gazed upon each other with bewildered and anguished doubt”.

Austin portrays a humorous anecdote in which Plymouth’s minister Chandler Robbins chides Deacon Foster on the Dark Day – which while perhaps had some original basis in truth, is made impossible by the fact that Deacon Thomas Foster had died of smallpox several years prior to the Dark Day. At Deacon Thomas Foster’s death, however, he was in the midst of a scandal, in which the majority of the parishioners were determined to sever his appointment as deacon due to his Loyalist beliefs during the Revolutionary War.

Parson Robbins, whose wide reading and correspondence told him that such phenomena had occurred before, and were attributed to natural causes, whether those might be astral, or volcanic, or atmospheric, or merely the effect of vast forest fires, went busily from house to house, imparting this information to his people… finally… he desisted, and when [Deacon Foster] interrupted him with, “No use kicking against the pricks, Parson, nor in denyin’ the power of an angry God to destroy a wicked world,” [Robbins] suddenly changed his based, and exclaimed, “You are right, Brother Foster, and since the Day of Doom is at hand, it behooves us sinners to hasten our repentance, and bring forth works meet for acceptance. Have you ever paid Widow Doten for that cow?”

“It died on my hands, Parson!” expostulated the deacon in a whine of mingled wrath and terror.

“You had owned it a week, and if you are about to be called into judgment-”

“I’ll pay her, Parson, I’ll pay her! Here, I’ll get out the money now. There, there’s twenty good silver dollars, and if you’ll come along with me I’ll give it to her this minute. It won’t make any difference to either of us by this time tomorrow.”

“Yes, it will make a great difference to your soul, brother”

“Oh yes, yes. Well, come along, and ye – don’t it look a little mite clearer than it did?”

“It is a little lighter for you,” replied the parson, significantly; and the Widow Doten received her money…[once] the peril was over… the widow bestowed her dollars in the old teapot on the top shelf of the china-closet, and the deacon mediated how he should regain possession of them either as a loan, an investment, or by the sale of some unseasoned swamp-wood, which might, by a little “deaconing”, be made to pass for sound oak.

Apparently Plymoutheans could hold grudges for more than a century!

Wishful Wednesday: Seeking the Bible of Rev. Thomas Smith of Pembroke MA

Putting this request out:

I am hoping to locate the Rev. Thomas Smith Bible. The bible of Rev. Thomas Smith (1706-1788) of Pembroke, Massachusetts was mentioned in A Memorial of Rev. Thomas Smith (Second Minister of Pembroke, Mass.) And His Descendants , Compiled by Susan Augusta Smith (Plymouth, MA: Avery & Doten, 1895).

There are many references in the Smith Memorial to this bible, such as:

In the bible of his son, Rev. Thomas Smith, occurs this quaint record, in his own handwriting, now dim with age and almost illegible: “My father died March 4th, 1746, it being on Saturday about Sun Setting in the 80th year of his age, and was buried on Monday – Our Fathers, where are they?”

The bible also records the birth dates and times of his children, which are all included in the book.

However, I am interested in the reference to the two slaves of Rev. Thomas Smith: Joan and her daughter Margaret alias “Peg”. Susan Augusta Smith notes that the deaths of Peg and Joan “are recorded in the family Bible”, however she does not include a transcription of these records.

It seems that as of 1895, the bible was in the possession of Susan Augusta Smith (daughter of Nathaniel Smith, granddaughter of Nathaniel Smith, great-great granddaughter of Rev. Thomas Smith). Susan was born 19 Oct 1843 and had only one brother, Moses Bass Smith, who had died in 1861. In the 1900 Census, Susan Smith’s occupation is listed as “genealogist”. But since she never married nor had children, it is unclear to whom the bible passed down to, or where it is located today.

NEHGS has a bible titled “Bible record for the Rev. Thomas Smith family, 1706-1855. [manuscript]”  however, this is not the same bible referred to in the Smith Memorial. The family records in this bible are all in one hand and detail Rev. Smith’s family with a focus on the families of his son Joseph Smith,  grandson Joshua Smith and wife Saba Drew and great grandson Joseph Smith and wife Helen Estes. The bible therefore may have been written by Joseph Smith or Helen Estes Smith in the 1850s or later (NEHGS’s copy is missing the title page of the bible and therefore does not include a publication date). According to NEHGS’s notes, this bible was found at Clay Eldridge’s Antique shop on Plympton Green, Mass. and was donated by NEHGS member Mrs. Don. Whiston of Upland Meadows, Kingston, Mass on 12 May 1958.

If anyone has details about the whereabouts of Rev. Thomas Smith’s bible today, please let me know!

Surname Saturday: John Everson of Plymouth, Massachusetts

Everson Title Image

As NEHGS celebrates its 170th anniversary, this week the New England Historical and Genealogical Register launched a beautiful new format and style. This Register features my article “Descendants of John Everson of Plymouth, Massachusetts” which identifies and untangles the early Everson family of Plymouth Colony. In the 17th century, John Everson was an unwelcome transient in both Massachusetts Bay Colony and Plymouth Colony, and he ultimately gave up custody of his three young children, who were each taken in and raised by separate Plymouth families. Very little has been published on the family up until now, and the few publications that have included references to them have often confused the early generations – a significantly repeated error being the division of Richard2 Everson into two men, one who married Elizabeth (_) and another who married Penelope Bumpas. However, my research shows that they were in fact the same man.

The article is part of my larger Everson project, a book which documents John Everson’s descendants through to the sixth generation (as yet unpublished). While many Eversons remained in Plymouth County, some lines were a part of the westward migration through New York and beyond, and others to Northern New England and into Canada.

Below is a copy of the article, which can be cited as: Mary Blauss Edwards, “Descendants of John Everson of Plymouth, Massachusetts,” New England Historical and Genealogical Register 169 [2015]:35-50.

EversonArticlePDFTitleImage

Treasure Chest Thursday: The wedding dresses of Ida Edith (Payne) Edwards, 1949-1958

My husband’s grandmother Ida Edith (Payne) Edwards was a talented dressmaker.  From the ages of 14 to 16, she served a two year apprenticeship with a dressmaker in the west end of London.  She spent the majority of her working career as a ladies tailor or dressmaker throughout London. While working as a tailoress, she met her husband William James Stephen Edwards, a fellow tailor, and they married in 1913. In the 1930s she worked for a small couture dressmaker. During World War II, she worked as dressmaker for Debenham’s department store, remaining in London during the Blitz. She was very skilled, and would often make dresses for dowagers which cost thousands of pounds. Years later she shared that Queen Alexandra and later Queen Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon preferred to have “Mrs. Edwards” as their fitter. At Debenhem’s, she quickly learned to write down the women’s statements and measurements exactly, especially if they quarreled over the measurements which Ida had taken (the women claiming they were smaller than their physical measurements had indicated!), so that later Ida could not be in trouble if the women later complained that the dress was too small, since she prided herself on her accuracy. Ida left Debenham’s after World War II and joined St. Francis Hospital in their linen room as a needlewoman where she worked until her retirement in the 1960s. During her time at the hospital, however, she missed dressmaking and therefore after hours would often work for commission or for free to create wedding dresses or other dresses for friends, neighbors, and others. Appreciative brides often sent Mrs. Edwards’ photographs from their wedding of “the dress”, which I have included below:

The dress she made for her niece Doris Fielder’s 1949 wedding:

1949SaundersFredFielderDorisWeddingPhoto-FrontClose

The dress she made for her daughter-in-law Rene Royce’s 1955 wedding:

Chris and Rene Wedding

The dress she made for her neighbor Rosina Newton’s 1956 wedding:

1956McCarthyJohnNewtonRosinaWedding-Front

The dress she made for Edna Dines’ 1957 wedding:

1957DinesEdnaWeddingDress-Front

A dress for an unknown bride’s 1953 wedding:

1953-UnknownBridesDressPhotographerWadex-Front

A dress for an unknown bride’s 1953 wedding:

1953DevilleBrideDress-Front

A dress for an unknown bride’s 1958 wedding:

1958July-BridesDress-Front

A dress for an unknown bride’s wedding during the 1950s:

1950s-UnknownBridesDress-Front

A dress for an unknown bride’s wedding during the 1950s:

1950sBrideDressPhotographerDaborn-Front

A dress for an unknown bride’s wedding during the 1950s:

1950sUnknownBridesDressPhotographerCountyStudios-Front