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.

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.]

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

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.

A Revolutionary Epidemic

Boston Aug 2 1776 / Rec’d of General Lincoln four pounds in full for / Inoculating him & son for the Small Pox / Jos. Gardner [Document from Hingham Historical Society archives]

Smallpox was a dreaded disease in the 18th century.  It was endemic in Great Britain and, while overall less common in North America, the period of the American Revolution coincided with a very serious smallpox epidemic that started in the cities of the northeast in 1775 and spread across the continent.  The soldiers of the northeastern militias and the newly formed Continental Army were at great risk, not only because life in an army camp resulted in the easy spread of such a viral infection but also because Americans were generally less likely to have developed immunity to smallpox than their British counterparts.  

Inoculation against smallpox was known but was not the same as vaccination as we know it. As practiced in 1776, live smallpox virus was “inoculated” under the patient’s skin to induce a mild viral infection.  People inoculated against smallpox got sick, were contagious, and sometimes died.  One typically isolated oneself for some period of time when receiving a smallpox inoculation.  (It was only in 1798 that a British doctor, Edward Jenner, discovered that cowpox, a harmless relative of smallpox, offered protection against smallpox without creating an actual smallpox infection, thus developing the first vaccine.)  

It was at first General Washington’s policy not to inoculate soldiers because (1) they could infect each other and (2) they actually got sick, leading to concern that the enemy might know when a company was undergoing inoculation.  Smallpox had hindered the Continental Army’s attack on Quebec during the winter of 1775-1776, and Washington changed his policy and started inoculating the Continental troops the following winter at Morristown, New Jersey.  

It is not surprising, against this backdrop, that Benjamin Lincoln, at the time Major General of the Massachusetts militia, received a smallpox inoculation in August 1776, as evidenced by a receipt in our archives. He was preparing to leave Massachusetts the following month to lead two regiments of the Massachusetts militia to join Washington’s army in the defense of New York.  The following February, he was commissioned a Major General of the Continental Army, initially at Bound Brook, New Jersey.  His son, Benjamin Lincoln V, who inoculated with him, was a 21 year old law student at the time, serving under his father in the Massachusetts militia.

Joseph Gardner, the doctor who inoculated Lincoln, was in the summer of 1776 the Surgeon of Col. Thomas Crafts’ Artillery Regiment in the Massachusetts militia.  Like General Lincoln, Dr. Gardner joined the Continental Army in early 1777; he is recorded as having been one of the physicians with Washington and his forces at Valley Forge in the winter of 1777-78.  

Whiting Memorial Chapel Honored with Preservation Award

Each year, the Hingham Historical Society awards its W. Bradford Sprout, Jr., Architectural Award in recognition of a notable project involving the rehabilitation, restoration or preservation of an historic structure or property in the town of Hingham.  This past spring, at a “virtual” Annual Meeting of the Society, the award was presented  to the Trustees of High Street Cemetery for their restoration of Whiting Memorial Chapel.

Albert Turner Whiting in front of the newly constructed chapel, 1905.

Albert Turner Whiting commission this stone chapel, completed in 1905, in memory of his parents, Albert and Sarah Fearing Whiting, and his wife Harriet E. (Warren) Whiting, who died in January 1905, while the chapel was under construction. Whiting had already lost his only child, Helen, in 1891.  All are buried in High Street Cemetery.

Harriet Whiting Memorial Window.

J. Sumner Fowler, a Hingham resident and architect, designed Whiting Chapel. (He, too, is buried in High Street Cemetery.) The chapel is in the Gothic Revival style, popular nationally–think college campuses–although there are no other examples of the stye in Hingham.  The chapel was constructed of Weymouth seam-faced granite with Indiana limestone trimming.  It has a copper roof and double oak doors.

The interior features oak paneled walls and copious stained glass, including an ornate window in the apse, in memory of Whiting’s wife, Harriet E. (Warren) Whiting, who died in early 1905.

The Whitings (sometimes also Whitons)  were a large and important family in South Hingham.  Albert Whiting (Albert Turner’s father) built an Italianate Revival house that once stood at 1194 Main Street, just north of Queen Anne Corner.

Albert Whiting’s House at 1194 Main Street.

The elder Albert Whiting was a master mason, who was superintendent of stone work on many large public projects, including the Charlestown Navy Yard dry docks; Castle Island in South Boston; Fort Independence in Hull; and industrial canals for the Lowell Lock and Canal Co.  His son, Albert Turner Whiting, had a peripatetic youth, as his father’s trade required the family to move to these large building sites.  It is no wonder, then, that when the younger Albert came to commission a chapel in his parents’ honor, the result was one of Hingham’s only stone buildings.

Fowler, the architect, designed many well-known Hingham and South Shore buildings, including the former Town Offices at 14 Main Street and Ames Chapel in Hingham Cemetery, also recently restored.  That chapel could not be more different, though, having been designed in 1887 in the then-popular, richly ornamented Queen Anne style.

High Street Cemetery is the oldest cemetery in South Hingham. Its earliest extant headstone dates from 1688.  Through the mid-19th century, it was the responsibility of Hingham’s Second Parish.  It passed into private hands and was incorporated in 1855.

Restoration worked focused on interior and exterior wall repair due to leaks; floor repair; pew cleaning; and the repair and restoration of stained glass.  The oak doors and paneling were stripped and restained and an HVAC system was installed.  This work, performed by Ben Wilcox and Wilcox Construction, was funded by the Trustees’ endowment and a grant from the CPC.  The Trustees sought to restore the building for use for private events, and, as restored it comfortably seats 80.

The Trustees’ work makes a significant and beautiful building available to the Town, and for that we were pleased to honor the Trustees with the Sprout award.  Although outside of the public eye, owing to social distancing measures, the Trustees were awarded a plaque commemorating the award.  Special thanks to Aisling Gallery, which generously donated framing services, and Susan Kilmartin, for sharing her calligraphy skills.

Whiting Memorial Chapel in High Street Cemetery, 2019.

 

 

 

To My Children

After recuperating from a wound suffered during the Saratoga Campaign at his home in Hingham, Massachusetts, Major General  Benjamin Lincoln of the Continental Army was well enough to rejoin George Washington in New York in early August 1778.  Although he did not yet know it, he would be given the command of the Southern Division of the Continental Army in September 1778.  He would not be home again for any period of time for five years.

When General Lincoln left Hingham, his wife Mary was recovering from smallpox.  His eldest son, Benjamin, Jr., was 22 and away from home, studying the law.  Six children were at home:  Molly, 20; Elizabeth, 19; Sarah, 17; Theodore, 15; Martin, 9; and Hannah, 5.  Molly, the oldest daughter, who is referenced in this letter, was intellectually disabled and lived with her parents throughout her adult life.

On July 28, 1778, en route to New York, the General penned this letter to his children:

My Children:

The ill health of some of you, joined to my great hurry, prevented my making some general observations to you relative to your future conduct before I left home—some of which are of the greatest importance.

In the first place you will never forget your God—the duty you owe to him as your creator, preserver and best benefactor.   The duty you owe to your neighbor and to your selves you will learn from divine revelation, which you will attentively study, and the example of our dear redeemer.

I must mention to you the peculiar state of your mother whose cares and burdens are greatly increased by my absence. I need not urge; I am sure your own feelings will always suggest to you the propriety of your lessening her cares, lightening her burden, and treating her with every mark of tenderness, duty. and respect.  Never wound her by doing a wrong action. You may safely confide in her advice.

I must in the next place recommend to your constant notice your sister Molly. Consider who made you to differ.  You owe her every attention.  Make her life as happy as in your power. Some are made strong to bear the infirmities of the weak.

You will love each other.  Those of you who are grown up will counsel those who are not. Never set an ill example before the little ones.  Encourage them to every act of goodness, charity, and benevolence by precept and example.

As our happiness is connected with the happiness of those about you, always watch over yourselves; let your deportment at all times be such, if possible, that even the malicious shall be constrained to acknowledge its fitness.

I am in haste, must close ,but cannot do it without saying again remember your God, love your fellow creatures, injure no person.

I am, with every wish for your present and future happiness, your affectionate father,

B. Lincoln

 

The Lincoln Chair Returns

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The “Lincoln Chair” has returned to Hingham after a sojourn in the Arts of the Americas wing of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Tradition holds that this joined armchair, made of red oak with walnut inlays, belonged to Thomas Lincoln “the cooper,” one of Hingham’s original settlers. It was long thought to have been constructed in England, but microanalysis of the wood in the early 2000s revealed that the chair was made in North America. This information makes the chair even more of a rarity than formerly believed, as only about two dozen examples of 17th century New England joined chairs exist.

Of a type often called a “wainscot” chair, the Lincoln Chair has a plank seat and carved panel back. The series of elongated S- and reverse S-curves are thought to have been inspired by classical design.

The chair descended in the Lincoln family until 1914. In 1908, as the Town’s 275thanniversary approached, a national campaign was launched to raise funds for a bell tower in memory of Hingham’s first settlers. When the Memorial Bell Tower was dedicated in November 1912, an interior chamber, the “Peter Hobart Room,” was created and furnished with furniture and artifacts from mid-17thcentury England. Hingham’s Lincoln family donated the chair to the Memorial Bell Tower to furnish the Peter Hobart Room.

IMG_4897 (1)The chair was moved into Old Ship Church in 1933 and remained there until 2008, when it was loaned to the Museum of Fine Arts for display with other First Period furniture.

But now, the Lincoln Chair has returned home to Hingham. We are grateful to the Town of Hingham and Hingham’s First Parish for their stewardship of the chair over many years and for their decision to loan the Chair to the Society for display at the Hingham Heritage Museum.

Hingham Bird Carving Artistry: Duck and Shore Bird Decoys and Avian Miniatures

Our “Boxes, Buckets, and Toys” exhibit at the Hingham Heritage Museum has celebrated the craftsmanship of Hingham’s coopers and box and toymakers. Another area in which the woodworkers of Hingham excelled was the carving of duck and shorebird decoys, as well as decorative miniatures.

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Joseph Lincoln’s trade card

Life-like wooden decoys are used by duck and shorebird hunters to attract live birds: groups or “rigs” of wooden birds are set in or near the water to lure birds flying by to stop and join them.  The coastal areas and freshwater ponds of the South Shore were popular shooting locations for both sportsmen and market gunners and making wooden decoys became a cottage industry at which a few local practitioners excelled.

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Joseph Lincoln with his decoys

The most famous of our local decoy artists was Joseph Whiting Lincoln (1859–1938), who lived and worked beside Accord Pond on the Hingham-Rockland border.  After working in a shoe factory, Lincoln undertook a variety of occupations before settling into a career as a decoy carver in the 1870s.  In what had been his uncle’s cooperage, Lincoln created decoys that were shipped all over the East Coast and are highly sought after today for their artistry.  This “no nonsense” Yankee  made some miniatures, almost always in decoy style, but generally referred to his miniature carvings as “toys.”

Elisha Burr (1839-1909), a box maker whose Civil War canteens and woodenware are collectibles today, and his son Russ Burr (1887-1955), were also well-known decoy artists.  Like Lincoln’s, their work is highly sought after by collectors today. Russ Burr is also well known for his miniatures, two of which are on display in the Kelly Gallery at the Hingham Heritage Museum.

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Russell Burr, “whittler,” with some of his miniatures.  Photo courtesy of Bob Mosher

Alston “Shorty” Burr (1910-1979), Russ Burr’s nephew, continued the family carving tradition using his Uncle Russ’ patterns for avian miniatures.  Two of Shorty’s miniatures, similar but cruder than his uncle’s, are also on display in the Kelly Gallery.

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A Russ Burr shore bird decoy.  Image courtesy of Bob Mosher

There is much to appreciate in these bird carvings, whether considered as hunting tools or one of the few purely American art forms.  According to Bob Mosher, a contemporary Hingham carver and decoy historian, the difference between Lincoln and Burr decoys is instructive.  Lincoln made “working birds”—even his miniatures were made as little decoys, and his work is simple and impressionistic.  Burr’s style, on the other hand, is more detailed and “busy,” creating an “active, alive” carving.

Contemporary carving by Mosher and Hingham carver W.D. Sarni can be viewed and purchased in our Museum Shop on the 1st Floor of Old Derby Academy.

 

The “Precedent” and the Birth of Fire Fighting in Hingham

In 1802, the Town of Hingham authorized the construction of firehouses at Little Plain (Hingham Centre) and Broad Bridge (Hingham Square), although the responsibility to acquire the fire engines themselves rested with private citizens—the proprietors of Engine Companies No. 1 and 2.  The “hand tub” engines that they commissioned and paid for were large wooden tubs placed on carts for mobility and filled by hand from the nearest water source. Once the bucket was full, firemen pushed long wooden bars (“brakes”) up and down, setting in motion a piston in the tub that pumped the water out through a hose and nozzle.

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Francis H. Lincoln wrote in the 1893 History of the Town of Hingham:

If one were to imagine a fire in those days he would see a company of perhaps fifteen men at work upon the brakes and attending to the hose and pipe, while a line of men and women stretched away to the nearest water, which they passed from hand to hand in buckets, emptying it into the tub, passing the empty buckets back by another line to be filled again.

IMG_4495This wooden tub is from the Little Plain Engine, No. 1, nicknamed the “Precedent” because it was the first of what would ultimately be four such engines to be completed.  It was manufactured by local craftsmen: Peter Sprague made the tub from cedar furnished by Thomas Fearing. The ironwork was by the local firm of Stephenson and Thomas.

In 1830, the Town’s first suction apparatus, the “Hingham,” was acquired and “hand tubs” or “bucket tubs” such as the Precedent became obsolete.

The tub was reassembled and stabilized in recent years by Dick Kenney of the Bare Cove Fire Museum. It is currently on display at the Hingham Heritage Museum, on loan from the Bare Cove Fire Museum, 45 Bare Cove Park Drive, Hingham, MA 02043.