Origins of the Quacum Sisters: Founding Mothers of Wilberforce Colony, Ontario

Marshfield, MA sisters Vilana, Rosana, and Salome Quacum, with their husbands, were founding members of the Wilberforce Colony, established near London, Ontario, in 1829 by and for free African Americans. This fascinating blog post from “Of Graveyards and Things,” reviews history and genealogy–including their Hingham connections James Tuttle and Lucretia Leonard.  Follow the link to read more.

Of Graveyards and Things

Sisters Vilana, Rosanna, and Salome Quacum were born at the turn of the 19th century on the south shore of Massachusetts, the daughters of a multiracial family with African, Mattakeeset (Massachuset) Indian, and Herring Pond (Wampanoag) Indian heritage. Although they had lived as free New England women, they each married husbands in the 1820s who were fugitive slaves. After spending several years in their hometown of Marshfield, Plymouth County, Massachusetts and Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, each of the married sisters made the decision to leave their extended family behind and become founding members of the Wilberforce Colony in Ontario, on land which was owned and governed by African Americans, and thus offered security to the Quacum sisters’ husbands from American slave catchers, as well as the possibility of living in a more welcoming community with black governance.

The Origins of the Quacum Sisters

Their father Thomas Quacum was a resident…

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Launching the Hingham Heritage Google Map

I had no idea when I retired in March 2015 that so much of my early retirement would involve projects tied to history.  These projects culminated in the Hingham Historical Society‘s Custom Google Map Project, which I have shepherded for the past year.   As the opening of the Visitor Center at the Historical Society’s newly renovated Old Derby Academy approaches, it is exciting to unveil our work.  The new Hingham Heritage Map is a custom Google map with a series of topical overlays on which locations of local historical significance are geo-located and described.

Not sure what that means?  Just click in the upper left hand corner to see the “legend,” or list of overlays, and in the upper right hand corner to enlarge the map:

Select one of the themed layers using the map “legend” on the left, and the Google map will populate with icons representing sites of interest.  Click on one and scroll down to read more about its history and in some cases, see historic and contemporary photos.  Note: Many historic structures on this map are private homes today, but exteriors can be viewed as you walk, bike, or drive along.

Eileen McIntyre with veterans

Eileen McIntyre with veterans Norm Grossman and Syd Rosenburg (Barry Chin photo for Boston Globe)

Over the past two years, I was pleased to make connections with fellow history-minded Hinghamites whose help and encouragement made the project possible.  In late 2015, I met with Andy Hoey, Director of Social Studies in the Hingham Public Schools, to explore ways I could put my experience with a new StoryCorps smartphone app to use, capturing oral histories. I’d originally thought I might work with some students to encourage their use of the app.  Andy suggested that I consider capturing stories of local military veterans and introduced me to Keith Jermyn, Hingham’s Director of Veterans’ Services. I kept in touch with Andy as I interviewed veterans in town over the succeeding months to come. The initiative was covered in a Globe South story that ran with their Veterans Day coverage last year.  While we did not realize it when we connected about StoryCorps, both Andy and Keith would later prove helpful in the map project.

Detail from W.A. Dwiggins map, “The Old Place Names,” 1935

In March of 2016, I met with Suzanne Buchanan, then Executive Director at the Hingham Historical Society, and others to explore a potential way-finding project for the planned opening of the Visitor Center at the Hingham Heritage Museum.  Over the next several weeks, I researched an earlier signage project explored by the Hingham Downtown Association. My findings suggested that adding more signs to point visitors to Historic Downtown Hingham, and the new Museum, would be challenging. I also realized that for most of us these days, physical way-finding signs are not a major navigation tool. As I pondered this, an unrelated event sparked an idea.

In the spring of 2016 I attended my 45th college reunion and was impressed by a custom Google map the Boston College alumni office had created to guide attendees to the events held on two campuses. I wondered if we could design such a map as an easy-to-access resource to the Hingham history all around us–so I contacted the BC alumni office to find out how the map had been created.  The Associate Director, Strategic Marketing and Writing, of the Office of University Advancement, Stacy Chansky, was very helpful, sending me online resources. Wow, I thought. Maybe some local students could be enlisted to help me with create a custom Google map to showcase Hingham history that would launch when the new Hingham Heritage Museum opened.

I shared my idea with Suzanne and, based on her enthusiasm for the concept, I reached out to Andy Hoey to see if any Hingham High School students could be enlisted when school resumed the following September.  Andy came through for me, not only identifying two interested seniors, but also gaining approval for them to receive course credit for the hours they spent on the project.  Seniors Eliza Cohen and Collin Bonnell and I agreed on a multi-themed approach to mapping the history of our Town. Our objective would be not only to pinpoint locations but also to include text and photographs.

PC158 First Universalist Church

First Universalist Church and Society, now a private home on North Street.

Both students had themes they wanted to research. Eliza set off to document the Town’s historic meeting houses, places of worship, and cemeteries, while Collin dove into Hingham’s rich military history across the centuries. (I contacted Keith Jermyn about Collin’s work and he contributed by giving Collin material on the many military monuments around town.) Later, Collin also would help me research Hingham’s farming history.

Abolition Banner

Banner from Hingham’s historic 1844 abolitionist event at Tranquility Grove (Burns Memorial Park today). 

Other topics I took on were bucket-making and other early industry in town and the history of Tuttleville, a 19th-century freed black community in Hingham.  This latter topic would later expand to include Hingham’s historic relationship to our nation’s abolition movement. Each research topic would become a layer of the custom Google map.  And I made sure that the Hingham Heritage Museum would be represented on each map layer, through a reference to archival materials or artifacts related to the theme for that layer of the map. (I’ve learned much along the way about the rich resource our new museum will be for all kinds of research.)

As the project got underway last fall, the Society’s registrar, Michael Achille, helped us find information and photographs from the Society’s archives and the Public Library’s history collections.  Michael has been invaluable as both an expert resource and a cheerleader throughout this project.  He is now working with Andy Hoey on an Historical Society-sponsored internship for Hingham High School students starting next fall.  Assignments for the students are expected to include future enhancements to the custom Google map we have created for the Heritage Museum.

For a project with the scope of ours, it was best to begin by populating a shared database. We made Google sheets the home for all of the data we began collecting beginning last September.  Later in the fall, one of my contacts from the StoryCorps project, Hingham-based journalist Johanna Seltz Seelen, put me in touch with Yael Bessoud, a university-level history student with good technology skills–and her future son-in-law.  Yael joined our team early this year, first researching photographs at the library and in the Society archives and then referencing the Hingham Comprehensive Community Inventory of Historic, Architectural and Archeological Assets to populate the database with content for additional Google map layers, including ones documenting the more than one hundred pre-1800 homes and other structures still standing in Hingham.  Later, Yael was instrumental in transferring the information we had put into our database onto a Google map.

Everyone involved in this project is excited that, less than a year from the project’s inception, we are launching what is now an eight-layer custom Google map documenting so many aspects of the Town’s history.  I want to give special shout-outs to Eliza Cohen, who is beginning her college studies at the Shanghai, China, campus of New York University; Collin Bonnell, who is off to college at Fordham University in New York City, and Yael Bessoud, who, with an Associate Degree in History from Quincy College completed, is now continuing his studies toward a B.A. in Education at Framingham State University.

The map project is ongoing. I appreciate the recent assistance of Geri Duff, who found digital images for many of the historic homes on the Google map and house histories compiled by Historical society volunteers over many years of Hingham Historical House Tours.  With these, I have been able to enrich the descriptions for many sites.

Other resources of value to the project have included: the entries on this blog, which document many of the archival resources that we have tied into map descriptions; Martha Reardon Bewick’s well-researched Lincoln Day address this year, which filled in much detail about the abolitionist gathering at Hingham’s Tranquility Grove (a site on one of the map layers); photos and stories provided by Town Historian Alexander Macmillan; and valuable clues about Hingham’s extensive dairy farm history provided by Peter Hersey, based on the labels from his historic milk bottle collection.

Any project worth doing “takes a village” . . . or in this case, a Town.

E. Wilder and Son Grocery Store

ph803-large (2)We don’t have many interior views this nice of the old Hingham shops. On the shelves of E. Wilder and Son Grocery Store (at 613 Main St., now the Cracker Barrel) you can see Quaker Oats, Van Houten’s Cocoa, canned foodstuffs, and various tobacco products. The man is Fred Wilder.  Fred worked not only in the store, with his father Ezra, but also in a Weymouth shoe factory, where had had the enviable job of “stitcher.” Fred and his wife, Hattie Shute Wilder, lived in an apartment over the store for 12 years before moving to 606 Main Street.  Fred and Hattie both worked in shoe factories in addition to caring for aging relatives and and the store.

Isaac Sprague, Botanical Illustrator

The Old Ordinary, our 1688 house museum, opens on June 13, 2017 and, for a second season, you can come see our Old Ordinary Summer Exhibit, “Isaac Sprague and American Botany.” While the exhibit devotes significant attention to Isaac Sprague’s Hingham roots and continuing connections with our town, it also addresses his prolific career as a botanical illustrator which is the source of his lasting fame.

coffee plantIn the 1840s Sprague left Hingham and moved to Cambridge, where he worked with influential botanists, including John Torrey (1796-1873) and Torrey’s pupil, Harvard professor Asa Gray (1810-1888), who is often referred to as a “father of American botany.”  In the mid-19th century, American botany was undergoing a period of intense growth and development into an academic discipline seeking a unified understanding of North American plant life that would match the highest standards of then-current European scholarship and complexity.  An important part of this process was the publication of complete and authoritative works describing the plant life of this continent—with clear, detailed, and accurate illustrations.  Sprague’s talents were ideal for the task.

2011.0.271Sprague first produced the illustrations for Asa Gray’s 1845 Lowell lectures at Harvard and then assisted with several comprehensive botanical volumes over the course of the 1840s and 1850s. His illustrations were scientific tools first and aesthetic objects second:  Sprague considered himself to be a naturalist or delineator rather than describing himself as an artist. In the preface to his 1848 work Genera of the Plants of the United States, Professor Gray described “the scientific insight and careful investigations of Mr. Sprague, as well as . . . his skill and accuracy in delineation.”  In his private correspondence, he reported that Sprague was studying botany and the natural sciences, underscoring the technical knowledge the work required.

Sprague contributed plates and engravings to over 40 works of botanical, horticultural and naturalist interest over this part of his career. The writers with whom he worked included not only Torrey and Asa Gray but also William Oakes (1799-1848), George Emerson (1797-1881), George Goodale (1839-1923), and others.  (The illustrations in this blog post are plates from George Emerson’s 1838 Trees and Shrubs of New England.)

Miss Gingham of Hingham

 

From The  Bookshelf for Boys and Girls, Children’s Book of Fact and Fancy, New York: University Society (1912).

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There sailed into harbor at Hingham
Three sailors one hot summer’s day;
They were Brewster and Bartlett and Bingham,
And fair shone the houses of Hingham,
And kind were the breezes to bring ‘em
To such a snug port in the Bay.

Right jolly those sailors at Hingham,
And worthy stout seamen were they,
And they san up the streets of old Hingham,
Did Bartlett Brewster and Bingham,
Till they reached the abode of Miss Gingham,
Who kept a small inn by the way.

“What cheer, Mistress Gingham of Hingham!”
Loud shouted those mariners gay;
“Be there any ice-cream here in Hingham?”
Quoth Brewster and Bartlett and Bingham;
“If you’ve any cold ices, pray bring’em;
There’s gold in our pockets to pay!”

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Now Miss Gingham was noted in Hingham
For skill in concocting frappes;
Not a housewife at Weymouth or Hingham
But envied the way she could fling ‘em;
And Bartlett and Brewster and Bingham
Regarded her skill with dismay.

With fond eyes they followed Miss Gingham,
And the ices that garnished her tray,
While more and yet ore did she bring ‘em,
Till, reluctantly, out of old Hingham
Went Brewster and Bartlett and Bingham
Pursuing their nautical way.

By Arthur Upson.

All About Pipes

Among the many accessions made possible through the generosity of the Gay family is a collection of clay pipes and fragments, carefully sorted and well documented by Ebenezer Gay. Many were dug up during gardening or, in one case, when some foundation work was done on their former home on North Street.

While it’s a humble-looking collection at first glance, particularly since most of the pieces in it are just that—pieces—pipe collections like this can serve as a window into a fascinating corner of both archaeology and social history.

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Pipes and stems found at the Gay House on North Street in Hingham

Clay pipes are a frequent archaeological find. They were batch-manufactured by craftsmen with simple tools, used all over the colonies and later the country, easily broken and then, usually, cast aside. The fragments left behind, and the much rarer pipes found intact, can give us clues about the world they came from. The length or thickness of a pipe’s stem, or the size of its bowl, can be used to determine its age, and a knowledgeable observer might use that information to help roughly date objects found with the pipe  A pipe might give more specific information than that, as well:  several of the ones in the North Street collection feature maker’s marks. The names “Murray” and “McDougall” each pop up more than once.

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A detail from Eben Gay’s notes on his pipe collection.  Gay was the curator of scientific instruments at Harvard; thus his wonderfully detailed notes. 

While tobacco is, of course, a New World plant and tobacco smoking something Europeans learned on this side of the ocean, the tradition of clay pipe making and smoking reached New England from Old England, where clay pipe makers’ guilds formed in the 17th century. Pipes much like the ones found all over the original colonies are also found at the sites of battles that took place during the English Civil War in the 1640s. The pipes the Gays found at North Street are certainly newer than this, and indeed clay pipes continued to be used through the 19th century. However, they newer ones, too, attest to the clay pipe industry’s British heritage. Several of the stems in the collection, along with or instead of maker’s marks, are stamped with their place of origin: Glasgow, Scotland.

While our collection of pipes is resolutely plain, extending in a few cases to some raised decoration on the pipe bowls, decorative pipes became quite an industry in the 19th century. Pipes were made with bowls shaped like animals, ships, people, or anything under the sun. Decorated pipes were used for advertisement, political commentary and commemoration of events. This connection to the events of the day is not unexpected. While smoked primarily (though not exclusively!) by men, pipes were smoked by those of essentially all social positions and in all sorts of environments: in taverns, on the job, or quietly at home. All things considered, it’s unsurprising that such a ubiquitous type of object should have left so many – and to the history enthusiast, such welcome— examples of itself behind.

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A Book for Governor Andrew

george_livermore_1904_portraitOn August 14, 1862, George Livermore, an historian, rare book collector and abolitionist from Cambridge, gave a lecture at the Massachusetts Historical Society titled “An Historical Research Regarding the Opinions of the Founders of the Republic on Negroes as Slaves, as Citizens and as Soldiers.”  In his lecture, also published that year, Mr. Livermore argued that the Founding Fathers considered black men capable of bearing arms and fighting for independence and therefore they should also be allowed to fight for the Union cause in the Civil War then underway. img_2433

Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner gave President Lincoln a copy of Livermore’s lecture, and it is said that Livermore’s arguments influenced Lincoln when he was drafting the Emancipation Proclamation in the fall of 1862.  A few month’s later, through Sumner’s offices, the pen with which President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation was given to George Livermore.  (It is currently on display at the Massachusetts Historical Society).

john-albion-andrewAlthough Lincoln disappointed Sumner by moving deliberately toward introducing uniformed black soldiers into the Union Army, his administration responded positively when, in January 1863, Massachusetts’ abolitionist war Governor, Hingham’s own John Albion Andrew, lobbied for leave to raise a black regiment.  The Massachusetts 54th Infantry Regiment was the first to be comprised of black volunteers, from Massachusetts and other states.

Was Governor Andrew at the Massachusetts Historical Society when Mr. Livermore gave his lecture?  Did Sumner or Livermore send Andrew a copy? Either way, it is fitting that one of the books in our collection from Governor Andrews’ library is his copy of “An Historical Research,” making the case for black soldiers and citizens, inscribed for him by the author.

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