Memorial Day in Hingham

Memorial Day arose in the aftermath of the Civil War, to honor the Union war dead.  It was frequently called “Decoration Day” because flowers were laid at the graves of those who had died for the Union cause.  The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), an organization of Union veterans which at its height had nearly half a million members, was influential in establishing one specific day—May 30—for commemoration of the North’s Civil War dead.  It is said that this day was selected because the flowers for decorating graves would by then be blooming throughout the country.  By the 1890s, all of the northern states observed Memorial Day each year on May 30.  (The states of the former Confederacy commemorated their war dead on a different date.)

In 1870, Hingham held an elaborate day of remembrance on June 17—the day the Town dedicated a monument to the memory of its Civil War dead. A thirty-foot obelisk of Quincy granite, the Soldiers and Sailors Monument stands on a hilltop in the center of Hingham Cemetery.  It bears the names of 74 Hingham men who lost their lives in the war.  Before the trees filled in, its site offered commanding views of the Harbor, World’s End, and Harbor islands, as can be seen from the early photograph and contemporaneous engraving above.

The details of the ceremony can be found in The Town of Hingham In the Late Civil War, by Fearing Burr, Jr., and George Lincoln, published in 1876.  A “procession” during the dedication ceremonies was elaborate and inclusive.  It was led by the Hingham police, two regiments of the state militia, the Weymouth Brass Band, and a drum corps.  There followed three “divisions,” each of which followed a different route through town, first to Agricultural Hall to hear an oration by local luminary Solomon Lincoln (1804-1881), and from there to the cemetery.  The procession included politicians, clergy, business leaders, schoolchildren, veterans, fraternal societies, police, firefighters, three brass bands, “citizens on foot,” “citizens in carriages,” and, poignantly, “orphans of deceased soldiers.

Solomon Lincoln was a well-known lawyer, Hingham’s representative in the General Court, and the author of Hingham’s first town history, published in 1827.  Lincoln opened his speech acknowledging that “[w]e have assembled to-day with mingled emotions of sorrow and joy—sorrow for the patriot dead who gave their lives to their country, and joy in the triumph of the cause for which they fought.”  Continuing with this theme, Lincoln added up the estimated 300,000 Union dead, 300,000 Confederate dead, and 400,000 “crippled or permanently disabled” to conclude that the war had a devastating personal impact on 1 million young men.  But, he noted:

notwithstanding these painful facts, carrying sorrow and calamity into so many families, and cutting down the flower of the young men of the land, we are permitted to rejoice in the success of the great struggle for which they gave their lives to their country. In the providence of God, the great cause of the rebellion was irrevocably removed, and every inhabitant of the land thus redeemed can enjoy the pure air of freedom. Our martyred president seemed to have been an instrument in the hands of the Almighty to purify this nation, and by his emancipation proclamation to breathe into it the breath of life, and to stamp his own with immortality.

Ever the local historian, Lincoln noted that he was speaking on the 95th anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill and evoked Hingham’s role in prior wars:

I have said that this is a historic day. The erection of the Monument to the memory of our soldiers and sailors in the place where it stands, has an appropriateness which harmonizes well with our local historical associations. It stands amid the graves of our ancestors, the first settlers of the Town, whose valor was displayed at an early date in our history, in defending our infant settlement from hostile attacks. The men who, in Provincial times, united with the forces of the mother country to repel the incursions of the French, repose almost beneath its shadow. The heroes and patriots of the Revolution, in considerable numbers, found their final resting-place within its limits. That distinguished general whose name is conspicuous in our annals, and who merited and enjoyed the confidence of Washington, rests in this consecrated ground. . . .  There, also, are the graves of many who bore arms in the war of 1812, by some called our second war of Independence.

Lincoln’s speech provides a hint that Hingham observed some form of Decoration or Memorial Day as early as 1870. When speaking of the Civil War graves near the new monument, he mentions that it has been “[b]ut a few days since the beautiful service was performed of decorating their burial places with flowers.”


No matter when Hingham started observing Memorial day, its services, speeches, and parades were well-established by the early 1900s, when we start to see photographic evidence.  The Hingham Journal described the events of Memorial Day 1918, occurring as it did while the United States was at war—World War I would not end until six months later, in November 1918.

MEMORIAL DAY, 1918, passed down into history as one of deep significance. Everything seemed permeated with a deeper feeling than usual. The speeches, the parade, the prayers, were all filled with things reminding us of the great world conflict. The courtesy shown by Commander Wallace in sending a detachment of Marines, and of Captain Edgar in sending a platoon of blue jackets, was appreciated, and helped to make the parade a success. It was the largest and best parade seen in the town for many years.

One of the “blue jackets” was Howard Henderson (1895-1982), a young man from Hingham who graduated college in 1917 and enlisted in the United States Naval Reserves.  Henderson exhaustively documented his life and his town in a series of photograph albums digitized and donated to the Society in 1996.  These albums include pictures of the 1912 Hingham Memorial Day Parade (above) as well as the 1918 parade, in which he marched with his unit.

World War I (with 116,000 soldier deaths) changed Memorial Day from a commemoration of the Union dead to a remembrance of all those who died in the military service of the United States.  This in turn transformed it into a holiday that was national in its appeal. In 1967, an Act of Congress made “Memorial Day” a federal holiday which one year later, in 1968, was moved from May 30 to the last Monday in May.

 

Hingham continues to observe Memorial Day every year and the 2022 ceremony will be held at Hingham Town Hall, starting at 11am.

The Farm Hills Civic Society

Individually we are ineffective, united we achieve results.

While researching my neighborhood around Peter Hobart Drive, I noticed that information about its history was limited in comparison to other parts of town. The road connects to upper Gardner Street, an area whose history extends to the early days of Hingham’s establishment. Various smaller streets branch off and create an entanglement of roads that forms our neighborhood community. My street was named after the Reverend Peter Hobart, one of the original settlers of Hingham and a pastor of the Town’s first church. However, the life of this neighborhood only stretches back to the early twentieth century, far later than the time period when Hobart lived.

The chicken barn that started the neighborhood c. 1963

Development began in 1938 with a chicken barn hiding behind an old bucket factory, and the rest of the houses were constructed throughout the fifties and sixties. To my dismay, much of Hingham’s historical research does not extend beyond World War II but rather focuses on the original era of English settlement. Although newly developed areas of town were not involved in Hingham’s establishment, they illustrate the pathway of change taken throughout Hingham’s existence.

The neighborhoods of upper Gardner Street have contributed greatly to the town’s politics and communal activities for the past few decades. The concern that initially brought the Farm Hills Civic Society together involved a proposal to extend Route 3 into the upper Gardner area. Residents worried that adding a busy highway in the middle of the neighborhood would  negatively affect the area’s character and interfere with the neighborhood’s tranquil and hospitable personality. In collective agreement that this proposal would create a great disturbance, residents collaborated to prevent the extension from being constructed.

Writing articles and calling meetings to present their views to others, the group achieved success in preventing the extension. This communal organization endures, still presenting their collective ideas for improvements to the neighborhood while fighting against town proposals that would threaten the area’s character.

Throughout the organization’s life, it has accomplished a variety of goals, both small and large. Creating a sense of community has been a principal goal of the Farm Hills Civic Society since it first began. One manner of accomplishing this has been hosting social events, such as annual Easter egg hunts and block parties. Involving neighbors in enjoyable communal activities enhanced the feeling of togetherness necessary for the FHCS to continue working for the benefit of the community as a whole. These events often catered to child residents, indicating the group’s desire to create a positive environment for families to raise their children.

According to an early resident of Peter Hobart Drive, Mary Thomas, many families moved from the Boston area to suburban towns, considered the “countryside” in the fifties, to enjoy the improved school systems, and today the neighborhood remains home to many families with young children. Consequently, many of the FHCS’s smaller goals centered on maintaining a safe and welcoming environment for children to grow up in. In the late seventies, the association prevented Pilgrim Arena from gaining a liquor license. This popular ice rink is often frequented by children for its exceptional activities and sports practices, and allowing such an establishment to sell liquor seemed inappropriate to the FHCS. The group also advocated for the preservation of safety in areas within the neighborhood where children often played. The same year as the ice rink victory, the society prevented an access road from being constructed through Kress Field. This plot was donated to the town to allow for a children’s playground to be built, and today it is a beloved part of the neighborhood’s child-friendly environment. In the early 2000s, they petitioned for the installation of a four-way stop at the intersection of Gardner Street, Winfield Lane, and Farm Hills Lane in order to preserve safety for families living near this area.

A 1969 newspaper article by Debra K. Piot in which the Thomas’s explain that they bought their home “looking for family roots in Hingham”

Just a few years after the FHCS was first incorporated, it faced a significant concern presented by the town government. The town provided the Selectman with permission to determine the relocation process of Route 228 with state officials. The six-lane highway would have cut through the Gardner Street neighborhoods, polluting the water supply with oil and salts while removing up to eighty-five homes around Farms Hills. To avoid the devastation this relocation would have caused, the FHCS united to defeat the proposal, which had been presented two separate times.

Gardner Street in a snow storm c. 1898

One of the Farm Hills Civic Society’s most notable accomplishments occurred between the years 1999 and 2000. A real estate company known as Mills Corporation of VA proposed a plan to construct a mega-mall where the South Weymouth Naval Air Station was once located. The development would have needed a connector road to be structured through the neighborhood, causing endless traffic on the surrounding streets. When the residents of the Farm Hills Area learned of this proposal, local town and state officials were already finalizing negotiations, explaining to the FHCS that the project was a “done deal.” However, neighbors rallied together, publishing newspaper articles to educate fellow townspeople about the issues this connector road would cause. With the tide turning in their favor, the FHCS called a town meeting, demonstrating the community support that their efforts had garnered and disrupting the supposedly “already decided” project.

The FHCS has seen incredibly dedicated presidents and members over the years. Notably, Stephen Kelsch served as president during the eighties, and members of his community remember and admire his efforts. He focused much of his attention on the effects of development in the South Hingham area, and current residents appreciate the enduring accomplishments he allowed the FHCS to achieve. Kelsch, sadly, passed in 2013, but his impact on the town’s politics remains apparent. Alongside the FHCS, he involved himself in multiple town committees and historical associations, including the Hingham Historical Society.

Current resident of Farm Hills Lane, Judy Kelley, has been an active member of the FHCS for many years. Her efforts in vocalizing the ideas and opinions of the FHCS have tremendously aided the accomplishment of many of the neighborhood’s goals. One significant issue that she helped the neighborhood overcome was the impending development of a substantial apartment complex near the upper Gardner area. Between the years 2011 and 2013, a development company known as AvalonBay planned to replace 18.5 acres of wooded area on Recreation Park Drive with an apartment complex comprised of sixteen buildings and one hundred seventy-seven individual apartments. This location was chosen to avoid specific town zoning regulations that inhibit crowded population densities. The construction of these apartments would have also required an access road leading into the neighborhood from Deerfield Road. This development would have resulted in multiple four-story housing complexes squeezing uncomfortably into the small streets of upper Gardner, inevitably increasing congestion on nearby roads and highways. Judy Kelley explained in an interview with Jeff Keating from WGBH News that the development would not have been accepted if the size of the land and the community were taken into greater consideration. Ultimately, with the help of the FHCS, the town selectmen passed a proposal to utilize the land for further development of the South Shore Industrial Park.

Gardner Street (with stone walls and chickens), c. 1900

Documents describing the accomplishments of the FHCS express: “Individually we are ineffective, united we achieve results.” This statement perfectly depicts the organization’s dedication to creating a supportive community and advocating for the best interests of the entire neighborhood. The community still remains politically active, with residents involved in various aspects of the town’s government, and the Farm Hills Civic Society continues to advocate for the good of the neighborhood under the current president, Ted Healy, who has served since 2014. Former residents believe that the group is more dynamic now than ever before due to dedicated leadership over the years.

The author, Ella Kennedy, is a member of the Hingham High School Class of 2022.  She participate in the Hingham Historical Society’s high school intern program during the fall term 2021.    

Irish in Hingham: Hannah and her Brothers

From the 1880s through about 1920, Irish immigration to America was led by women. Fleeing poverty and lack of opportunity in their native land, they came alone or with a friend or cousin. They took jobs as domestic servants or mill workers, managing to send a bit of money home, which enabled other family members to follow. In Hingham, we see this unique immigration pattern played out in the life of Hannah Ferris. Whether or not she paid her brothers’ passage, she and her husband, Henry Trowbridge took them in when they came.

Hannah Ferris Trowbridge (1856-1934)

Hannah (Ferris) Trowbridge and Henry Trowbridge, circa 1885

She came, Hannah Ferris, a young woman, out of the impoverished west of Ireland early in the 1880s. She came, first, to the industrial town in central Massachusetts where she found work as a servant. In the summer of 1884, she came to Hingham, the bride of Henry Trowbridge, farmer, butcher, shop owner, and Civil War vet. He was more than a dozen years her senior, a recent widower, with no children.

How Henry and Hannah met is unknown. There were a number of Irish families in town. Henry’s cousin had a live-in Irish servant as did his several of his neighbors. Did one of them introduce the couple? Someone had to because she lived in Worcester, he lived in Hingham, and because more than miles separated them. She was a domestic servant; he was a business owner. She was Catholic; he held a pew in the Old Ship.

Raymond Trowbridge (1896-1962), son of Henry and Hannah, as a child. Raymond was a WWI and WWII Navy vet. His father was a Civil War Naval Vet.

They married in the Catholic church in Worcester in July 1884 and returned to Hingham where she moved into his house on the corner of Union and Pleasant streets. They had five children. Three of them died young. Their first born, Isabel, died of croup at “2 years, 2 months, 2 days.” Frances died of meningitis at 15 months, and they lost Henry Jr. to tuberculosis at 14. The Catholic cemetery was still new when they buried their young ones.

Henry was more than busy with work, farming, and family, but in 1982, he undertook a new project. He built three new houses on his Pleasant/Union Street property:  a new one for his family and two others that came in handy when his relatives needed them and when Hannah’s brothers started coming to town.

* * * *

Hannah Ferris was the second of twelve children born in a small cottage in rural Killarney. Eight of her siblings immigrated into Massachusetts. Her younger sister Kate went to Worcester where she married, died and was buried in an unmarked grave with her six-month old son. Her seven brothers started their new lives in Boston or Worcester and have stories of their own, several marred by tragedy. The brothers were all in Hingham at some time, and many of their names are inked into St. Paul’s Church records as Godfather to one of Hannah’s children. Of the seven brothers, Morgan, Robert and Daniel lived in Hingham.

Morgan Ferris, my great-grandfather (1859-1938)

The Morgan Ferris family, School Street, 1921. Front, from left: Morgan Ferris, Oliver Tower, Oliver Ferris, Annie Tower, Annie (Tower) Ferris. Back, from left: Kathryn Ferris, Marjorie Ferris, Oliver Ferris, Amy (Litchfield) Ferris, Richard Ferris, Gordon Ferris.

Morgan Ferris came to Boston in about 1884 when he was in his twenties and soon followed Hannah to Hingham. He was a skilled carpenter and set up a business. Over the years, he built many houses on the South Shore. In 1892, he married Annie Tower, daughter of Oliver and Anne Tower of School Street. A minister of the First Baptist Church performed the ceremony in her family home; the record shows she was 19 and he was 29. (He was actually 33.)  They bought a house on School Street at the intersection of Spring Street and had three children, Oliver, Kathyrn, and Gordon. All three children attended Hingham schools, married, and stayed in town. Oliver married Amy Litchfield, Katheryn, Bob McKenzie, and Gordon, Evelyn Staples. They, in turn, had children; many of them made Hingham their home.

Morgan died in 1938 at age 78. There are a few stories that came down the years; most are about his story-telling prowess and his big belly laugh. One is about his love of sports, another says that when he died, the rosary beads he brought with him from Ireland were found in his bureau drawer.

Robert Ferris (1868-1957)

In November 1892, twenty-three-year-old Robert Ferris married Irish-born Margaret McCarthy, a laundress, in Boston. At the time, he was living in Hingham with Henry and Hannah and, more than likely, working on building their new houses. He was a carpenter like several of the brothers, but he wanted something else and became a Boston police officer. He and his family moved closer to the city, and he returned the Union Street house to Hannah in a legal transaction. He began his career patrolling the South Boston waterfront. The only picture I have of him accompanies an article in The Boston Globe in 1901 which recognizes him for saving a nine-year old boy from drowning.  He and Margaret had three children and lived relatively long lives.

Daniel Ferris (b. 1874)

Daniel and Gertrude Ferris’ children, Frances and John, c. 1902.

In 1898, Daniel was a U.S. Marine stationed in Boston, but his home was with Henry and Hannah. In 1899, he married their next-door neighbor, Gertrude Stephenson, daughter of Ezra and Clara of Pleasant Street. Daniel was 23 and she was 20. According to the Hingham Journal, the marriage “took place at St. Paul’s parsonage” on a Wednesday night. After their marriage, the couple lived with her family. Their daughter Francis was born in 1900 and son John in 1901.  Things did not go well, however. Daniel was arrested for theft, court martialed and discharged from the service. Soon after, he left Hingham. Gertrude took a job as shoemaker and lived with her parents before eventually moving to Bank Street.

Daniel disappeared from the record until  September 12, 1918, when he completed a WWI draft registration card. On that day, he was a logger living in a camp in Washington state. In addition to the birthdate, we know he is “our” Daniel Ferris, because he reported his nearest relative to be Robert Ferris, Police Headquarters, Boston, Mass.

Daniel’s problems and subsequent move may have hit Hannah hard – he was her youngest. brother When she was 18, she had walked to a civil registration office in Ireland to report his birth: “Informant, Hannah Ferris, present at birth.”

* * * *

Hannah’s life was full and her door, it seems, was always open. She kept in touch with her brothers and their children. She was Godmother to many and responded when they needed help. When her brother Eugene’s wife died of a fall at their home in Malden, her body was brought to Hingham and buried in Hannah and Henry’s plot in St. Paul’s cemetery.

Henry died in 1930 at 87, “one of the oldest GAR men in the state.”  When Hannah died four years later at 78, she left a detailed will. To her son Raymond she left $1,000, to her daughter Mabel went her house worth $4,100, and to St. Vincent DePaul, a Catholic charity committed to serving the poor and suffering, her entire savings of $3,269.93.

Hannah, Henry and four of their five children are buried in St. Paul’s Cemetery. Morgan and his family are buried in the Hingham Centre Cemetery.

The Trowbridge Ferris graves. Four of Henry and Hannah’s five children and Hannah’s sister-in-law, Emma, are buried here. Henry and Hannah’s names are on the other side.

 

Notes

  1. There are a number of good sources on the subject of Irish female immigration. “The Irish BridgetIrish Immigrant Women in Domestic Service in America, 1840-1930 written by Margaret Lynch-Brennan, is a good one. N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 2009.
  2. The National Women’s History Museum website says: “Strong female networks sustained the immigration flow of Irish women, even during times of economic depression … Irish women were the only immigrant group to establish immigration chains … Whereas other ethnic groups sent their sons to America, Ireland sent its daughters.” Raising a glass to Irish women, March14, 2017,
  3. On dates, names and ages: Hannah and Morgan consistently shaved four or five years off their ages on official documents. Their other siblings were only marginally more accurate. Daniel alternately used Donald as his first name.
  4. On quotations in this post: “2 years, 2 months, 2 days”: Isabel Trowbridge death notice, Hingham Journal, Nov. 13, 1887; “took place at St. Paul’s parsonage”: Hingham Journal, June 1899; “one of the oldest GAR men in the state”: Henry Trowbridge obituary, Daily Boston Globe, May 7, 1930.
  5. Eugene’s wife, Emma Ferris, 64, died in a fall from the second-story piazza of her Malden home. “She was cleaning rugs when the railing broke.” The Boston Globe, Sept. 1, 1923.

 

Hingham’s Men in Massachusetts’ Black Civil War Regiments

After the Emancipation Proclamation issued in January 1863, some of the Northern states, followed by the federal government, started to recruit and train regiments of Black troops to support the Union effort.  One of the first, and indisputably the most storied of the Black regiments, was the Massachusetts 54th Volunteer Infantry.  It was raised and trained between February and late May 1863. On May 28, 1863, it marched through Boston to a transport ship at the harbor, with thousands lining the streets to watch it go.  The story is told that as the regiment marched past the Old State House—site of the Boston Massacre, where the first to fall was a Black man—they sang “John Brown’s Body.”

Massachusetts 54th Memorial, Boston Common [Courtesy of National Park Service]

The 54th first experienced combat on July 16, 1863, at Grimball’s Landing, South Carolina, outside of Charleston, followed closely by a bloody assault on Fort Wagner, in Charleston Harbor. The 54th suffered a catastrophic 270 casualties out of the 600 men who participated and lost its commanding officer, Col. Robert Shaw. Although the assault was unsuccessful, the bravery of the 54th in battle was widely recognized and helped spur the formation of additional Black regiments. By the end of the war almost 200,000 men of color had served, comprising roughly 10% of the soldiers who served in the Union forces during the Civil War.

Boston Globe, July 18, 1863. Louis L. Simpson, born and raised in Hingham, appears in the bottom photo, top left.

Six Black men who were born or lived in Hingham served in the Civil War:  David Henry Champlin,  Jason Prince, Lewis Legare Simpson, and Richard C. Winslow served in the Mass. 54th; Samuel F. Beach served in the Massachusetts 55th Volunteer Infantry; and Augustus Tuttle served in the 5th Colored Cavalry.  Here is a little more about each of them.

 David Henry Champlin (1835-1886)

Troops from the Mass. 54th or 55th before the Battle of Honey Hill, GA. [Photo courtesy of the Town of Ridgeland, SC]

David H. Champlin was born in Norwich, Connecticut on April 18, 1835 to Prince and Mary Champlin.  We know little about his family except that Champlin’s father was “foreign.”  By 1850, when Champlin was 15 years old, he was living with the family of James Chandler, a white shoemaker in Duxbury.  Champlin himself went on to become a shoemaker, so he may have been apprenticed to Chandler.  In any event, by 1860, Champlin was living in Hingham with a first wife, Hannah, and working as a shoemaker.

Champlin enlisted in the Massachusetts 54th on August 25, 1863. Thus, like Lewis L. Simpson, Jason Prince, and Richard Winslow, he joined after the momentous assault on Fort Wagner.  He served as a Private in its Company B until March 1864, when he was promoted to the rank of Corporal. (Black men were eligible to become non-commissioned officers only, with the higher ranks open only to white men.)  During this period, Company B participated in a significant campaign in Florida, including the Battle of Olustee, and also at the Battles of Honey Hill, Georgia, and Boykin’s Mill, South Carolina.  The Battle of Honey Hill marked the first time a majority-Black Union Army force engaged with Confederate forces.

Champlin was mustered out with the rest of the regiment on August 20, 1865, at Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.   After the war, Champlin returned to Hingham, his family, and his work as a shoemaker.  His second wife, Phebe, was the daughter of John and Margaret Quackow and the step-daughter of James Tuttle, founder of Hingham’s eponymous Tuttleville neighborhood, where Champlin and his wife settled:  the 1880 federal census shows them living at 76 Ward Street.  Champlin continued working in the shoe industry; in later records, he is listed an “operative,” meaning that he was no longer making shoes by hand but rather operating shoe-making machinery in a local factory.

Champlin died at age 50 of “dropsy,” a term sometimes used in the 19th century to describe what we would call congestive heart failure.  He is buried in Fort Hill Cemetery; his grave is marked by a government-issued gravestone marked, “Corp. D. H. Champlin.”

Lewis Legare Simpson (1843-1918)

Lewis L. Simpson attired in his GAR uniform. [ancestry.com]

Born in Hingham on April 16, 1843, Lewis L. Simpson was one of the 14 children of George Whitney Simpson and Eliza (Freeman) Simpson.  He was, on his mother’s side, the great-grandson of a Black Revolutionary War soldier, Asher Freeman, who served in the Continental Army from 1777 to 1781. Simpson’s sister Henrietta married James King Tuttle, becoming a matriarch of Hingham’s families of color in the Tuttleville neighborhood.
Simpson enlisted in the Massachusetts 54th on November 29, 1863, aged 20, and served as a Private in Company G.  One year after enlisting, on November 30, 1864, he was wounded at the Battle of Honey Hill, Georgia, an attempt to disable the Charleston and Savannah Railroad in support of General William T. Sherman’s “March to the Sea.” After six months in military hospitals in Beaufort, South Carolina; David’s Island, New York; and Worcester, Massachusetts, Simpson was discharged from service on May 25, 1865.  A bullet lodged in his ankle was never removed and bothered him for the rest of his life.

After the war, Simpson resumed his trade as a bootmaker.  He had married Maria D. Johnson before the war, and they settled in Bridgewater, raising four daughters and six sons.  He was active in GAR activities and reunions of soldiers of the Mass. 54th, including one held in Boston in 1913 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Fort Wagner.  Simpson died in Bridgewater in 1918 and is buried in Mount Prospect Cemetery.

Jason Prince, 1842-1881

Jason Prince was born in Marshfield in 1842, the son of Sylvester Prince of Marshfield and Nancy Simpson of Hingham.  He spent his childhood in Marshfield with his family but by 1855, as a teenager, he was living with the Copeland family in South Scituate (now Norwell).  William Copeland was a Black shipwright and perhaps Prince was apprenticed to learn this trade; however, by 1863, when he enlisted, Prince was identified in his enlistment papers as a “farmer.”

Battle of Olustee. Llithograph, 1894, Kurz & Allison

Prince enlisted for a three-year term in the 54th on August 25, 1863—the same day as David Champlin.  He was 21 years old and served as a Private in Company G for his entire tour of duty. He joined his regiment at Morris Island, South Carolina, on Nov. 29, 1863; was injured at the Battle of Olustee, Florida, on Feb. 20, 1864; and was discharged owing to disability from the Union Army Hospital at Beaufort, SC, on June 8, 1865.

Prince returned to Massachusetts and in 1865 was living in South Scituate.  At the time of his death, however, he resided in Hingham. The Hingham Journal of April 22, 1881 reported a workplace accident at the J. W. Kimball lumber yard: Jason Prince of South Hingham had fallen from a pile of lumber.  While the prognosis at first was hopeful, he had injured his spine.  Paralysis set in and he died on May 1, 1881.  The death notice in the May 13, 1881 Hingham Journal noted that Prince had been “a solder of the 54th Reg Mass Vol.”  Prince is buried in High Street Cemetery.

Richard S. Winslow (1831-1904)

Richard S. Winslow was born on July 9, 1831 to Harvey and Clarissa Winslow, who resided at the time at 15 Ship Street, Hingham.  Like Lewis Simpson, Winslow was descended from a Revolutionary War soldier—his great-grandfather Benjamin Ward of Hingham served with the militia in the early years of the Revolution.  Winslow married Almira Franks, who was also born in Hingham, in 1851; she died in 1860.  His second wife was Prudence Celia Lee of South Scituate, with whom he had twelve children.

Winslow was 33, married, and the father of three when he enlisted in the 54th on December 10, 1863. His enlistment papers describe him as 6’2” and a shoemaker by trade.  During his service as a private in Company H, Winslow saw action at Olustee, Florida and Boykin’s Mill, South Carolina —the last battle in South Carolina and one of the last of the war.  After hostilities ceased, Winslow was “accidentally wounded in the foot” at Sumpterville, South Carolina and was mustered out of service on September 1, 1865 in New York City.

After the war, Winslow and his family lived in Hanover, where he died at age 73 in 1904.  His obituary mentioned his service with the Mass. 54th , his later active involvement with Hanover and Plymouth GAR posts, and his membership in Hanover’s Methodist Church.  Winslow is buried in the Hanover Center Cemetery.

Samuel F. Beach (1836-1871)

Samuel F. Beach was born in Hingham in 1835, the son of Michael and Harriet (Simpson) Beach. As a young man, his family moved around the area; he lived in South Scituate in 1850, Plymouth in 1855, and Duxbury in 1860.  In the 1860 federal census, he is listed as a “farm laborer.”

The Mass. 55th enters Charleston. Harper’s Weekly, Mar 18, 1865.

Beach enlisted in the Massachusetts 55th Volunteer Infantry (the second Black infantry unit raised by the Commonwealth) on January 9, 1865.  In February 1865, the Mass. 55th was one of the Union regiments that entered Charleston, where they were met with enthusiasm by crowds of newly-liberated Black slaves and free Black Charlestonians. The 55th remained in South Carolina for the rest of the war, largely engaged in occupying Charleston, before returning to Massachusetts in September 1, 1865.

After the war, Beach settled in Salem, where he married Ann Thompson, and had a daughter, Emma, who was born in 1866.  He continued to work as a general laborer, living to age 86.  Beach died of pneumonia in 1871.

Augustus Tuttle (1835-1911) 

Augustus Tuthill enlistment record, August 31, 1864

Augustus Tuttle was born in Hingham in 1835, the son of John Tuttle and Harriet N. (Davis) Tuttle, but raised by his mother in Salem.  In 1858, he married Mary Elizabeth Pitts Lewis of Lowell, who died the following year.

On August 31, 1864, Tuttle enlisted in the 5th Massachusetts Colored Cavalry, the only Black cavalry regiment mustered in Massachusetts.  Company M, in which Tuttle served as a Private, was the last company of the 5th Colored Cavalry to be formed and the last to be mustered out, having been sent to Texas after the war was over.

Tuttle’s military records render his last name as “Tuthill” and provide his occupation as “barber.”  After the war, on May 1, 1866, he married Elizabeth Ann Lew.  The couple lived in Charlestown and then Cambridge.  He was listed in an 1883 Boston City Directory as a “hairdresser” with a shop at 25 Derne Street, on Beacon Hill, and a home in Cambridgeport.  Twice a widower, Tuttle died in Chelsea in 1911.

[A prior version of this article appeared in the Hingham Anchor.]

Happy 275th Anniversary, Second Parish

The congregation of Second Parish in Hingham is celebrating its 275th anniversary this year. Second Parish, like Hingham, has a rich history. It was founded in 1746 as one of the churches of the “Standing Order” of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. These meetinghouses and their ministers were supported by taxes levied upon the citizens. 

In 1727, due to the distance from the downtown meetinghouse, Hingham’s First Parish or what we know as Old Ship, the inhabitants of Glad Tidings Plain began to agitate for religious services in South Hingham during the winter. Each of their proposals was refused. By 1738, they requested to be set off into their own parish and precinct. This caused much controversy, as downtown residents who also owned farmland in South Hingham would be taxed to support two churches if this occurred. Undaunted and rebellious, the residents of South Hingham, led by Theophilus Cushing (1703-1779), decided to build their own meetinghouse.

Cushing gave the land, and Solomon Loring and others provided the building materials. The frame was raised June 22, 1742. The original church was a simple rectangular structure with pews owned by parishioners on the first floor and galleries upstairs. Now the inhabitants had a meetinghouse, but no preacher and no public money to pay one. They continued to petition the Great and General Court in 1744 and 1745. Finally, on March 21, 1746, the parish was established. Reverend Daniel Shute (1722-1802) was called as minister and served for over 50 years. 

Conceptual drawing of Second Parish, 1742
Rev. Shute’s sermon at Rev. Gay’s interment.

During the Revolutionary War, Reverend Shute was an ardent patriot, but remained a steadfast friend of Reverend Ebenezer Gay (1696-1787) of Old Ship, who was a loyalist.  The two pastors exchanged pulpits, with the Shute traveling up Main Street to preach at Old Ship while Gay went down to South Hingham to do the same. When Ebenezer Gay died in 1787 at the age of 90, Daniel Shute preached at his burial. His son, Dr. Daniel Shute (1756-1829), was a surgeon in the Continental Army and served under Alexander Hamilton and Maj. Gen. Benjamin Lincoln. 

As America developed as a new country, Second Parish also grew. In 1792, a bell tower was added, and in 1829, the entrance to the church moved to the Main Street side. It was not until 1889 that the four-faced tower clock was installed. Reverend John Lewis Russell, minister from 1842 to 1849, was an ardent abolitionist and was instrumental in hosting an Anti-Slavery Convention in the meetinghouse on August 1, 1850. Reverend Allen Gary Jennings, minister from 1870 to 1881, served in the Civil War as a young man as did many from the congregation. 

Streetcars pass along Main Street by Second Parish, c. 1900

In the Twentieth Century Second Parish and New North Church shared ministers from 1900 until 1912. Second Parish supported America’s entry into both the First and Second World Wars; however, the church closed in 1944 as it was difficult to hire ministers. While closed, the parish continued to run Sunday School using Wilder Hall across the street. The parish reopened in 1946. In 1956, a neighboring barn was moved to the back of the church. The barn was converted into a social hall called Cushing Hall, and a kitchen and minister’s study were added. In 2017, an accessible entrance was completed allowing all to enter and leave the building with ease and dignity. Each addition to Second Parish has met the needs of the current parishioners and has improved upon the building while maintaining the historic character of the original meetinghouse.

Today Second Parish is an active house of worship with a strong commitment to service. The church houses the Hingham Food Pantry and AA meetings, and donates 50% of its plate collections each month to a variety of local charities. The entire congregation participates in placing flags on veterans’ graves at the High Street Cemetery the Sunday before Memorial Day. The Second Parish Arts Festival in May and the Fall Pumpkin Patch are two popular church events enjoyed by the public. Second Parish cherishes its history and continues the tradition started by Reverend Daniel Shute and Reverend Ebenezer Gay of exchanging pulpits. Reverend Stephanie Shute Kelsch and Reverend Ken Read Brown, both of whom are descendants of the first ministers of their churches, enjoy this annual opportunity to preach to each other’s congregations.

Frank Vining Smith’s South Seas Mural

Frank Vining Smith, American (1879-67). South Sea Island Scene

Last summer, the Hingham Historical Society received the generous gift of a large (5.5’ x 7.5’) mural with a South Seas islands scene.  It had been painted directly onto a horsehair plaster wall on the back porch of a home on Hingham’s Main Street. For decades it was hidden behind wall paneling until it was accidentally discovered during a 2011 house renovation undertaken by homeowners Frank and Patricia Hanrahan. The Hanrahans immediately understood this exciting find because they had traced the ownership of their home and knew that from 1931 to 1939 it had been owned by noted marine artist Frank Vining Smith and his wife Nella. Smith is considered one of Americas foremost marine artists and is especially well known for his romantic portrayal of clipper ships from the “Golden Age of Sail.” Although the mural doesn’t depict Smith’s typical subject, the painterly brushwork and color suggest Smith’s style.

Mural on the porch wall at 640 Main Street, Hingham

The Hanrahans decided that this long hidden art work was a valuable part of the house’s history and hired Oliver Brothers of Boston, Fine Art Restoration and Conservation, to preserve and restore the damaged and fragile mural. Over several days the mural was painstakingly removed from the wall of the porch by applying a protective sealer to protect the painting while the crumbling horsehair plaster was shaved off the back. The painting you see is actually over a thin skin of plaster that is mounted to a metal panel which was re-installed at the Hanrahans’ home on the same back porch wall.

Although the large mural is an imagined Polynesian scene without a ship in sight, the unsigned work has hallmarks of Smith’s style: impressionistic painterly brushwork, dramatic color, and a romantic depiction of the sea. A further clue that the mural was most surely painted by Frank Vining Smith is similar tropical imagery and figures that can be seen in a watercolor sketch, Del Rio Shipboard Mural, in the collection of Heritage Museums & Gardens, Sandwich, MA. Frank Vining Smith’s long career included painting decorative mural commissions for interiors of private yachts and ships built by Bethlehem Steel at Fore River Shipyard.

Cover art from J. Craig, Frank Vining Smith: Maritime Painting in the 20th Century (2010)

Smith was born in Whitman and summered as a child on the Cape Cod seacoast in Bourne where he became an avid sailor and loved sketching nautical subjects. His natural talent led him to prepare for a career in art, initially as an illustrator. At the School of the Museum of Fine Arts his teachers were noted American Impressionists Edmund Tarbell and Frank Benson. They both strongly influenced Smith’s painterly style and his ability to depict figures. When Smith reached his mid-forties he had become successful enough to give up publishing work and devote himself entirely to painting. Having moved to Hingham in 1921, Smith perhaps knew fellow successful artists Franklin Whiting Rogers on Free Street and Louis and Beatrice Ruyl on Gardner Street.

The 1920s and 1930s have been called the “golden age of travel posters.”

The murals indigenous figures on a non-specific South Seas Islands beach may have been inspired by popular culture during the 1920-30s when the choice of a tropic idyll was perhaps a whim for a back porch used by family for relaxation and entertaining, open to sunlight through French doors to the garden beyond.

In New England there is a tradition of painted walls depicting far away harbor scenes as seen in homes of sea captains and wealthy Yankee shipowners. Could this scene be Frank Smiths playful take on a seafarers tradition? He was a man known to like a good joke.

Why does this fanciful 20th century mural hang in the Kelly Gallery of the Hingham Heritage Museum, where its bold imagery contrasts sharply with the fine antiques, more formal paintings, and historic artifacts on display?

First, the mural is a stunning artwork painted by a recognized master of marine art. Much of Smith’s work is in private collections and museums so it is a privilege for the Hingham Heritage Museum to display an original work.

Second, the painting sparks discussion of its cultural context. In the mural, native islanders wear tropical sarongs and pursue traditional activities: a woman dries fish in the sun, another bears a wide woven market basket on her head. She gazes admiringly at the strapping young fisherman proudly presenting his catch while a companion tends to the humble outrigger boat.  The idyllic scene is not typical of Smith’s work and may offer a glimpse of popular travel and tourist culture of the 1930s. The mural may also be explored within the sociological framework of “colonial imagination,” the stereotypes created about colonized people, to provide insight into how they may have marked a young artist coming of age at the height of American imperialism.

Installation in Kelly Gallery of the Hingham Heritage Museum, July 2020

Finally, the mural tells a great story of stewardship and historic preservation. The Hanrahans’ research led to a vital connection: noted Hingham artist Frank Vining Smith once lived at their 640 Main Street home. He likely painted the porch wall for pleasure before he and wife Nella built a new home in Hingham at 64 High Street—where wall murals by Smith were also discovered behind dining room walls, including one that also depicted a South Seas view.

Hingham is a town of antique homes. New home owners often renovate old houses, sometimes at a loss of valuable historical assets for Hingham. Fortunately Frank Vining Smiths captivating Polynesian mural was not destroyed, only covered up. The Hanrahans’ stewardship and gift contributes to the many varied stories that make up Hinghams history.

[Want to learn more?  Video of a June 2021 gallery talk by Joan Brancale on this painting can be found here.]

 

Marion Teague, Hingham History Maker

Hingham History Makers Awards Ceremony, May 14, 2021. Photo courtesy of Veronica Hodges

Marion L. Teague, Hingham History Maker

On Friday, May 14, 2021, the Hingham Historical Society awarded Marion Teague the designation “Hingham History Maker,” to honor her pioneering role in researching and preserving the history of Black and Indigenous people in Hingham.  At a necessarily small (owing to COVID restrictions) ceremony at Harbor House in Hingham, State Rep. Joan Meschino presented a citation from the Massachusetts House and Senate to 98-year old Marion and congratulated her on a “life well-lived” in the Town of Hingham.  Paula Bagger, President of the Society, spoke about Marion’s eventful life and work and presented a framed “History Maker” award.  Paula’s remarks may be read here.  Additional tributes to Marion were offered by Elizabeth Dings, on behalf of the Hingham Historical Commission; Joseph Collymore, of Harbor Media and also a longtime family friend; the Rev. Geoffrey Dana Hicks of Hingham’s First Baptist Church; and Marian’s daughter, Joyce Barber.  Katie Sutton attended as a representative of the Hingham Unity Council and Marian’s family and friends filled out the highly appreciative audience.

Tuttleville — detail from 19th c. Plymouth County Atlas

Marion is being celebrated for the pioneering role she has played in helping to preserve the history of Tuttleville, a two hundred year old Black neighborhood around Ward and High Streets in Hingham, and its families, some of whom have lived in Tuttleville throughout those two centuries. The eponymous James Tuttle (1780-1834), was the first Tuttle in Hingham, and he settled in the Ward Street/High Street area around the turn of the 19th century.  He was preceded as a landowner in the area, however, by members of a Black family named Humphrey; on November 29, 1801, James Tuttle and Rebecca Humphrey (1797-1843), a daughter of that family, were married by the Rev. Nicholas B. Whitney at Hingham’s Second Parish.

Marriage Record, James Tuttle and Rebecca Humphrey

Believed to be John Tuttle and his half-sister Betsy. Photo in collection of Hingham Historical Society

James and Rebecca’s son, John Tuttle (1810-1886), described in the federal census as a farmer, was an important member of this growing Black community, as was his half-brother, James King Tuttle (1834-1906), whose mother was James Tuttle’s second wife, Margaret Quacum Leonard (1796-1806).  James King Tuttle was a shoemaker; many of the Tuttles worked in the shoe factories then operating in Weymouth.  John and James King Tuttle were instrumental in the founding of a village church, the Free Christian Mission, in 1876.

Lewis Legare Simpson as a member of the GAR

James King Tuttle married Henrietta Simpson (1840-1921) on November 13, 1856, thus joining the Tuttle family to the large (Henrietta had 15 siblings!) Simpson family, whose heritage was Black and Native American (the Chappaquiddick tribe). Henrietta’s brother, Lewis Legare Simpson (1843-1918), enlisted in the Massachusetts 54th volunteer infantry, the first Black fighting regiment in the Civil War.

Marion’s grandfather, Walter Thomas Tuttle (1859-1931), was a son of James King Tuttle and Henrietta Simpson.  Also employed in shoe manufacturing, he married Laura Vickers (1869-1931), from Worcester County.  Laura’s heritage was also Indigenous; she was a member of the Nipmuc nation.  Their daughter Mabel, who married Herbert Lindsay, was Marion’s mother.

 

 

 

So, once again, thank you, Marion Laura Lindsay Teague, and we look forward to continuing to discuss Hingham history with you for a long time!

Generations of Tuttle-Simpson women. Photo courtesy of Veronica Hodges

Charlotte Gardner Briggs: an Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times

Charlotte Briggs, c. 1871

When Charlotte Briggs died in 1940 in her 99th year, she was “reported to be Hingham’s oldest resident.”  According to her descendants she had another claim to fame: when she was young, she shook hands with Abraham Lincoln. She left no written account of this, or of any other matter, but it is the story she told her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Charlotte, my great-great grandmother, was born 179 years ago, in May 1842, to Hiram and Lucinda Bailey Gardner. Hiram was a widower with four children when he married Lucinda. They proceeded to have nine more. From their farm in Hanson, Hiram supplied timbers and masts to shipbuilders on the North River. For some years, the farm was on the Boston to Plymouth stagecoach road and when the stage pulled in to change horses in Hiram’s barnyard, it was met with great excitement by Charlotte and her siblings.

The oldest of her mother’s nine children, Charlotte spent her days taking care of children, baking, gardening, and providing community service. She and her mother attended meetings at the Quaker Meeting House in Pembroke as Lucinda was drawn to the Quaker religion of her Bailey grandfather and uncles, who were preachers and abolitionists.

As a girl, Charlotte was a student at Hanover Academy, and stayed to teach for a while after she completed her education. During the Civil War, she lived at home with her parents and worked as a shoemaker. In 1871, at age 28, she married William Briggs, who was 16 years her senior, and moved to his nearby farm in Norwell.

Marriage and Motherhood

Charlotte and William Briggs in front of their house.

So began Charlotte’s busy life as a wife and soon-to-be mother of a girl and two boys. The large farm was a family business; in addition to growing crops, William cut ice from their pond and stored it in an ice house on the property until summer when they would sell it. The boys worked with their father, and daughter Frances helped her mother cook, clean and care for the gardens.

Charlotte’s child-raising years passed unrecorded, as did most women’s at a time when their work revolved around the home, family, farm and church. But Charlotte’s children grew, and married and two of them had children of their own.  It is here that we get a glimpse of Charlotte’s life and the farm her grandchildren remember so fondly, because her granddaughter, my great-aunt Ruth, did record her memories.

Ruth details “the garden lands, hayfields, pasturelands, and orchards … The upland pasture had grown into delicious high-bushed blueberries. In back of all this was acres of woodland. The barn housed four horses, two cows and pigs. Around the house to the side and back were pear trees, sour apple trees, grapevines, blue and raspberry currant and gooseberry bushes … In the fall, the cellar was full of vegetables, barrels of apples, and a closet full of preserves.”

These descriptions leave little doubt as to what Charlotte did with her days. Ruth also remembers “going to the Quaker Meeting House with my grandmother Charlotte.”

Thirty years in Hingham

4. William Briggs, Charlotte’s husband, with granddaughters Ruth and Amy Litchfield. 1897.

Hard work did nothing to shorten the lives of the Briggses. William lived to be 83, and Charlotte lived into her 99th year. When William died in 1910, Charlotte was only 68. Her children were married and had homes of their own. The farm was too big and too much work for her alone, so she sold it, living first with her son and then moving permanently to her daughter Frances’s house in Hingham.

To understand the Hingham household Charlotte moved into is to understand the shattered lives of widows, young and old, aging without a safety net, and the challenges facing women who lost their income with their husbands, because the family had been devasted by death.

At home were matriarch Sarah Trowbridge Litchfield, 75, who was mourning the deaths of her only two sons who died within two years of each other, her widowed daughters-in-law, Martha and Frances, as well as Frances’s daughters, Amy and Ruth, 18 and 16. It was a house of loss—the sons, the husbands, the father. It was a house of mourning. It was a house of women.

But, this house of women would provide the support they each needed. In the winter of 1916, they buried homeowner Sarah Litchfield, 80. The matriarch gone, the house stayed in the family, and the women supported themselves through dressmaking, real estate sales, and savings. They sent Amy to Skidmore School of Arts and Ruth to nursing school.

Charlotte was there for all these years and more. Her granddaughter Amy married in 1917, and her new husband Oliver Ferris moved into the house of women. They had three children, but not before a pandemic stuck and a world war was fought. Four generations were at home now. Granddaughter Ruth married and moved to the house next door and the corner of School and Pleasant streets became a family enclave.

In the ’20s, the introduction of radio made baseball fans of the whole family, and throughout the Great Depression of the ’30s, Charlotte’s gardening and farming skills helped keep the family fed. She was often seen crossing the lawn between her granddaughters’ houses, checking on this and that, stopping to pull a weed or talk to a child. She saw her grandchildren grow to be young adults.

Charlotte Gardner Briggs, 95; her granddaughter, Amy Litchfield Ferris, 42; her daughter, Frances Briggs Litchfield, 66. 1937. School St., Hingham.

In her 90s, she grew frail and her daughter and granddaughters cared for her at home until she died of old age “after a week’s illness.” Funeral services were held at her home on School Street, a minister of the Old Ship Church officiated, and she was buried with her husband in the Hanover Center Cemetery

Charlotte and Lincoln

Did Charlotte shake hands with Abraham Lincoln? He was in the Boston area in 1848; Charlotte was only six years old and would have been with her mother or relatives. Would the tall congressman have bent down to shake hands with a child? Maybe. He was in New England again in 1860; Charlotte was 18. Did she see him then, or did she travel out of state to hear him speak? Maybe. But I am quite sure that, at some time, Charlotte Gardner Briggs did shake hands with the man. She was not a woman who would have made up a story.

Notes

“[R]eported to be Hingham’s oldest resident,” “after a week’s illness.”:” Obituary, Hingham Journal, Dec. 12, 1940.

William S. Briggs married Charlotte S. Gardner on Feb. 15, 1871. Three children: (1) Frances m. Wilbur Litchfield, had two children. (2) Joseph married Maude Whiting. (3) Walter S. m. Charlotte Osborne, had two children.

The Hingham Historical Society thanks Meg Kenagy not only for this post but for permission to share family photos.

Hingham’s First Glimpse of Frederick Douglass

On November 4, 1841, a young Frederick Douglass—only three years removed from slavery—gave one of his first recorded speeches at a meeting of the Plymouth County Anti-Slavery Society at the First Baptist Church here in Hingham.  On August 10, 1841, only three months earlier, Douglass had appeared on Nantucket Island, at a meeting of the island’s Anti-Slavery Society, where he first met William Lloyd Garrison and launched a career as an abolitionist lecturer and activist.

One item on the agenda at the Hingham meeting in November was a resolution to censure northern Protestant churches which practiced segregation. It was on this subject that Douglass spoke that day.

Frederick Douglass was not yet the legendary figure that he soon became in abolitionist circles—indeed, when he returned to Hingham three years later to speak at the Great Abolition Pic Nic held at Tranquility Grove, he was a “headliner” among the speakers.  But in November 1841, he was a relative unknown and was introduced to the Society as follows, as reported by Hingham’s local paper, the Patriot, on November 11th:

A colored man then rose, and was introduced to the meeting by Rev. Mr. May, [the Society’s] President, as Mr. Douglass.  It appears that he is a runaway slave, “about whom,” said Mr. May, “an interesting story might be told, but it is not expedient to make its details public.

Douglass later addressed the meeting at several points, including, again in the words of the Patriot, “allud[ing], with considerable wit, to the union between the churches of the North and the South . . . .”  This appears to be a reference to the short oration that was recorded, titled The Church and Prejudice.  It opened as follows:

At the South I was a member of the Methodist Church. When I came north, I thought one Sunday I would attend communion, at one of the churches of my denomination, in the town I was staying. The white people gathered round the altar, the blacks clustered by the door. After the good minister had served out the bread and wine to one portion of those near him, he said, “These may withdraw, and others come forward;” thus he proceeded till all the white members had been served. Then he took a long breath, and looking out towards the door, exclaimed, “Come up, colored friends, come up! for you know God is no respecter of persons!” I haven’t been there to see the sacraments taken since.

As he continued to speak of the Northern church (in New Bedford, where he had settled on coming north), the “wit” alluded to by the Patriot was on show.  Describing the charismatic experiences of certain parishioners, he told this story:

Another young lady fell into a trance. When she awoke, she declared she had been to heaven. Her friends were all anxious to know what and whom she had seen there; so she told the whole story. But there was one good old lady whose curiosity went beyond that of all the others—and she inquired of the girl that had the vision, if she saw any black folks in heaven? After some hesitation, the reply was, “Oh! I didn’t go into the kitchen!”

The full text of the speech can be found here.

First Baptist Church, Hingham, Mass., c. 1885

The resolution concerning the stance of northern Protestant churches passed.  Douglass himself made a deep impression on the correspondent for the Hingham Patriot, as can be seen in this passage of his extended report on the Anti-Slavery Society’s meeting:

. . . [A]s Douglass stood there in manly attitude, with erect form and glistening eye and deep-toned voice, telling us that he had been secretly devising means to effect his release from bondage, we could not help thinking of Spartacus the Gladiator . . . .  A man of his shrewdness, and his power both intellectually and physically, must be poor stuff, thought we, to make a slave of.  At any rate, we would not like to be his master. . . .

He is very fluent in the use of language, choice and appropriate language too; and talks as well, for all that we could see, as men who spent all their days over books.  He is forcible, keen, and very sarcastic, and considering the poor advantage he must have had as a slave he is certainly a remarkable man.

The Hingham Patriot’s article can be found here.

A comment on the photograph at the top of this post.  It is the earliest image of Douglass, taken in 1841, the year he first came to Hingham.  Renee Graham wrote a wonderful piece on photographs of Douglass, including this image (from the collection of Greg French) for wbur.org.  It can be found here.  Her observation on this image:

. . . . Even in that first palm-sized photograph, Douglass seemed to fully understand the power of a single image. More than 150 years since it was taken, its ability to devastate has not been dulled.

Handsome and about 23, Douglass peers directly into the camera. His eyes blaze with fearless purpose and determination; he all but defies the viewer to look away. This, the photograph silently proclaims, is not a man to be trifled with. No mere runaway slave, Douglass is the face of freedom.

Six Sons of Hingham and the Boston Tea Party – PART TWO

In PART ONE of this blog, you learned about three men who were part of the Boston Tea Party event on December 16, 1773: Jared Joy, James Stoddard II, and Abraham Tower.

In addition to the three participants whom both Hingham and Cohasset can claim as their own, there were three other sons of Hingham involved in the Boston Tea Party:  Adam Beal, Jr., Amos Lincoln, and Samuel Sprague, each of whom relocated from Hingham as young men.

ADAM BEAL, Jr.: Age 19 on the day of the Boston Tea Party. Adam was born in Hingham on November 3, 1754. His parents, both born in Hingham, were Adam Beal (1725-1796) and Jael Worrick (also 1725-1806). When Adam Beal Jr. was born, his family lived on Hull Street in the Second Precinct of Hingham.

The Beal family in Hingham began with John Beal, “Shoemaker,” who emigrated from Hingham, England in 1638, traveling with his wife, five sons, three daughters, and two (presumably indentured) servants. John received a land grant of six acres on what is now South Street near the corner of Hersey Street. In 1659 John was chosen to represent the town at the General Court of the colony.

Adam Beal, Jr. left Hingham soon after marrying Lydia Beal, a cousin who was the daughter of Lazarus Beal, a teacher for several years in Hingham, and his wife Lydia Wheat, originally of Newton, MA. Adam and Lydia relocated to St. Albans, Franklin County, Vermont, where Adam worked as a cabinet maker. (The young couple may have briefly lived in Goshen, Hampshire County, MA, where Adam’s parents had moved, as the second of Adam, Jr. and Lydia’s sons was born in Goshen.)

In addition to his participation in the Boston Tea Party event, Adam, Jr. served multiple enlistments during the Revolutionary War, between 1776 and 1778. Adam died on July 21, 1834. He and his wife Lydia are both buried in St. Albans, Vermont.

AMOS LINCOLN: Age 20 on the day of the Boston Tea Party. Amos was born in Hingham on March 18, 1753. His parents were life-long Hingham residents Enoch Lincoln (1721-1802) and Rachel Fearing Lincoln (1721-1782), who are both buried at Hingham Cemetery. The family (Amos was one of nine children) lived on Lincoln Street in Hingham. One of Amos Lincoln’s brothers, Levi, who later would serve as Thomas Jefferson’s first attorney general, was part of the convention that drafted the Massachusetts Constitution in 1779 and supported Quock Walker of Worcester County as he successfully sued to win his freedom from slavery citing language in that constitution.

Amos was a descendant of Samuel Lincoln, “Weaver,” who was born in Hingham England and settled in Hingham Massachusetts in 1637.  The future town leader and historian Solomon Lincoln of Hingham, as well as President Abraham Lincoln of Kentucky, would therefore have been distant cousins of this participant in the Boston Tea Party.

Amos left Hingham to be a carpenter’s apprentice to Thomas Crafts, Sr. in Boston.  Amos is known for marrying two of Paul Revere’s daughters: he married Deborah Revere, they had 9 children, and after her death, her sister Elizabeth Revere, with whom he had 5 children, and later Martha Howard Robb, with whom he had 3 more children. He most likely met the Revere sisters when serving in their father’s regiment during the Revolutionary War. J.L. Bell, author of the “Boston 1775” blog, wrote: “We know from Massachusetts records that Amos Lincoln served mostly close to home. He joined the state artillery regiment commanded by his master’s son, Thomas Crafts, Jr. On 10 May 1776, Col. Crafts submitted a list of officers to the state government, and Amos Lincoln was made a captain-lieutenant. He was promoted to captain in January 1778 and remained at that rank as command of the regiment passed to Lt. Col. Paul Revere in 1779.” Captain Lincoln died on the 14th or 15th of January of 1829 in Quincy, Massachusetts but is buried in Boston, at Copps Hill Burial Ground.

SAMUEL SPRAGUE: Age 20 on the day of the Boston Tea Party. Samuel was born in Hingham on December 22, 1753. His parents were Jeremiah Sprague, “Weaver,” (born in Hingham in 1714, died “before 1778”) and Elizabeth Whiton (born in Hingham in 1718/1719, died in Hingham in 1800). Samuel’s father Jeremiah served as constable in Hingham in 1755 and 1756.

Samuel was a direct descendant of William Sprague, born in 1609 in Dorset, Upway, England, who came to the American colonies in 1629 with his older brothers, who are credited with being founders of Charlestown. William Sprague married Millicent Eames in Charlestown. After settling in Hingham in 1636 (“land was granted to him that year on ‘the Playne’”) they lived on Union Street “over the river.” This would be the paternal homestead for generations to come. William served Hingham as a Selectman and as a town constable.

Samuel Sprague served in the Revolutionary War in the artillery company of Maj Thomas Pierce. Samuel was a mason by trade and it likely was work that first brought him to Boston from Hingham. He married Joanna Thayer, of Boston, a daughter of Obediah Thayer, born in 1756 in Braintree. The Spragues became most well-known for their fourth son, Charles Sprague, who was a famous poet in the nineteenth century, at times referred to as the “The Banker Poet of Boston.” They lived in a house on Orange (now Washington) Street.

In his book “Tea Leaves,” which provides considerable detail about the Boston Tea Party, Francis S. Drake (1828-1885) includes an account that Samuel Sprague reportedly shared with his son regarding the tea dumping event of December 1773:

“That evening…I met some lads hurrying along towards Griffin’s wharf…I joined them, and on reaching the wharf found the “Indians” busy with the tea chests…I obtained a quantity of soot, with which I blackened my face. Joining the party, I recognized among them Mr. Etheredge, my master. We worked together, but neither of us ever afterwards alluded to each other’s share in the Proceedings.”

Samuel Sprague died June 20, 1844.

He is buried in the Central Burying Ground, on Boston Common off Boylston Street (as is his son the poet) in the Sprague family tomb, Number 5—gravesite shown here. His wife Joanna died a few years later—in 1848.

I came across a fun Hingham history-related story about Samuel and Joanna’s son Charles, the poet. There is a collection of Sprague family papers in the Hingham Public Library archives, collected and donated by John Richardson.  Among the items archived in the collection is a letter from poet Charles Sprague written in 1835, to Jairus Lincoln, stating that he will be unable to write an ode for Hingham’s Bicentennial Celebration, as had been requested of him. 

Were there any consequences for those who participated in the Boston Tea Party?

One important aspect about Hingham at the time of the Boston Tea Party, and throughout the Revolutionary War, is that there were residents who were Loyalists, faithful to the King of England, living alongside the Patriots fighting for independence. Jotham Gay, whose letter I referenced earlier, was not alone in expressing disapproval of the “destruction…of private consignments” of tea. Reportedly, George Washington thought the protestors, whose concerns about taxation he agreed with, had gone too far in dumping the tea, and that they should compensate the East India Company for the damages. But at the time, many of those involved fled from Boston, and their identities were kept secret.

Others of our founding fathers disagreed. John Adams wrote in his diary, “This destruction of the tea is so bold, so daring, so firm, so intrepid and inflexible, and it must have so important consequences, and so lasting, that I cannot but consider it as an epoch in history. The question is whether the destruction of the tea was necessary? I apprehend it was absolutely and indispensably so…. To let it be landed would be giving up the principle of taxation by Parliamentary authority, against which the continent has struggled for ten years…. But it will be said, it might have been left in the care of a committee of the town, or in Castle William. To this many objections may be urged.” 

Benjamin Franklin wrote the following, from London, to the Honorable Thomas Cushing on March 22, 1774 concerning potential legal consequences for those involved in the dumping of tea at Boston:

Franklin before the lord’s council, Whitehall Chapel, 1774; painted by C. Schuessele, engraved by Whitechurch. Digital file from Library of Congress.

A footnote to this letter on Founders Online adds that when witnesses from Boston were interrogated—presumably, the “enquiries” to which Benjamin Franklin refers—the law officers decided that such testimony did not provide sufficient evidence for a charge of high treason.  “Only one member of the Sons of Liberty, Francis Akeley, was caught and imprisoned for his participation.”  A partial listing, of 58 of those involved in the Boston Tea Party, was published decades later, in 1835–after many of the protestors had died.

And here we are, in 2020, a year of many challenges, when protest and activism by citizens of all ages has been a constant throughout our nation.

I will end this blog by noting that December 16, 2023 will be the 250th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party. But I am not waiting to celebrate these young activists of their day. When this year’s 247th anniversary arrives, I plan to brew a pot of tea and have a high tea salute to our six Hingham Sons of Liberty!

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REFERENCES for this blog post (parts one and two) include:

PATRIOT LEDGER, November 4, 2019, article by Sue Scheible; The 1893 History of Hingham, published by the Town of Hingham; the 1827 History of Hingham by Solomon Lincoln; article on the Boston Tea Party by MABEL PRATT Registrar, Col Thomas Lothrop, DAR, AMERICAN MONTHLY MAGAZINE March 1901; http://www.Founders.archives.gov (Founders Online repository); the Boston Tea Party Museum website, the Library of Congress online archives; Tea Leaves, Being a collection of letters and documents relating to the shipment of tea to the American colonies in the year 1773, by the East India Company, by Francis S. Drake, 1884; Out of the Archives, the Hingham Historical Society’s blog; the Gay family papers at the Hingham Historical Society; the work of J. L. Bell on Boston 1775, on-line articles provided by the History Channel; various family histories available on Ancestry, the Plymouth Colony Pages, and other genealogy websites. I also benefitted from the insights, suggestions, and access to items in the Hingham Historical Society collection provided by Ellen Miller (who, in addition to her work for the Old Ordinary House Museum, is involved, with Susan Wetzel, in a collaborative Hingham Historical Society/DAR project to identify Hingham men connected with the Revolutionary War) and by Hingham Historical Society Collections Manager and Registrar, Michael Achille.