The Statue on the Green

1995_36_81The Hartford photographer William G. Dudley took this photograph of a Civil War monument on the town green in Glastonbury shortly after it was erected to commemorate Frederick M. Barber and other Glastonbury men killed in the Civil War. Barber, a captain with the 16th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry, died on September 20, 1862 of wounds received in action at the Battle of Antietam. His widow Mercy dedicated the monument in 1913, more than fifty years after her husband’s death. Mrs. Barber lived for four more years and died in 1917 at the age of eighty-seven. This summer, Jay LIchtmann, a volunteer at the Connecticut Historical Society, scanned over 1000 of Dudley’s original glass negatives, and Sasha Agins, a student from Bryn Mawr, finished formatting and finishing online records begun a decade ago by yet another dedicated volunteer, Norm Hausman. It was Agins who identified the monument in the photograph and determined its location.


A Hannah surprise reprise

Hannah Smith's diary, Mary 10 to July 15, 1844. Ms 98476

Hannah Smith’s diary, Mary 10 to July 15, 1844. Ms 94876

I could barely contain myself when I realized what I was holding. The collection title was “Lambert Family Papers”, but here was another diary by one of my favorite young women of the 18th century, Hannah Hadassah Hickok Smith! You can read my earlier post about her here. I’ve read her earlier diary, and now, she is a grown woman of seventy-eight and the year is 1844. She notes she has been married 58 years.

Hannah has not changed much since her earlier diary, at least according to her entries. She does mention her daughters and husband which she did not in 1784, but he still is very self-deprecating, still reads voraciously, and records her daily chores, which she dismisses as lazing about. Here is a 78 year old woman hiving bees, throwing more wood in the stove at 3:00 a.m., and setting fence posts!  On June 13, she wrote: Continue reading

Give us back our cows!

I recently came across four letters in our catch-all “Miscellaneous Manuscripts” boxes that provided a real aha moment. The letters were written by Amos Laurence of Brookline, Massachusetts, to Abby Smith of Glastonbury, Connecticut. Abby is one of the Smith sisters whose claim to fame is that they refused to pay their town taxes because as single women they had no representation in town government. The town took their cows in lieu of payment. News of their plight evidently made it all the way to Boston. Laurence seems to be rather progressive–on January 14, 1874, he wrote:

The account of y[ou]r hardships is interesting and y[ou]r action will be highly beneficial in bringing the subject to public notice, and in leading to the correction of a great injustice. The taxation of the property of women without allowing them an representation even in Town affairs is to unfair that it seems only necessary to bring it to public view to make it odious and to bring about a change. Therefore you deserve the greater honor not only because you have suffered in agood cause, but because you have set an example that will be followed and that will lead to happy results.

A letter of support from Amos Laurence to Abby Smith for refusing to pay her taxes to the town of Glastonbury. Ms 38267

A letter of support from Amos Laurence to Abby Smith for refusing to pay her taxes to the town of Glastonbury. Ms 38267

He continues with some examples:

In the town where this is written [i.e. Brookline] a widow pays into the town treasury $7830 a year, while 600 men, a number  equal to half the whole number of voters pay $1200 in all. . . . That is, each one of 600 men who have no property, who pay only a poll tax, and many of whom cannot read or write, has the power of voting away the property of town, while the female owners have no power at all.

In an earlier letter Amos wrote about excess spending by various levels of government. Yet another example of how, no matter the amount of time that has passed, nothing changes.

If you take the New York papers you will have seen recently the results of “manhood” suffrage without qualifications, in the annual addresses of the Governors of States. What a piling up of state and municipal indebtedness! Has there ever been seen in the history of governments such a reckless expenditure of money, the greatest part of w[hic]h has been borrowed.

I wonder what he would think of the current threat of the “fiscal cliff”?

In his third letter he celebrates that there was a movement in town to buy back the Smith sisters’ cows and present them to their rightful owners, which is exactly what happened. The Smith sisters are folk heroes in Glastonbury, and here at CHS we have their mother’s diary (see the earlier blog entry about Hannah Hadassah Hickock), Julia’s translation of the Bible and her diaries (Ms Smith, Julia), published books about the sisters, and a portrait of their house, which is still standing in Glastonbury.

The homestead of Abby and Julia Smith in Glastonbury, Connecticut. 1979.63.263.

The homestead of Abby and Julia Smith in Glastonbury, Connecticut. 1979.63.263.


The word Wohelo stands for Work, Health, and Love. Per the Camp Fire USA website, when Camp Fire was founded in 1910, “Wohelo was coined as the organization’s watchword.”

Three years after Camp Fire was founded, in Vermont, it had made its way to Hartford. Louise Blair was a member of the Suckiag Camp Fire club. In a small notebook she recorded the law of the Camp Fire:

Seek Beauty
Give Service
Pursue Knowledge
Be Trustworthy
Hold on to Health
Glorify Work
Be Happy

These seven principles are represented among the pages of another notebook kept by Blair. Meeting agendas began with the Wohelo call.

Louise Blair Camp Fire records, 1913-1915, Ms 79896. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

The group pursued knowledge indoors and out, learning sign language, going on nature hikes, and similar activities. There was a heavy Native American influence, evidenced by the name of the group (Suckiag). Each girl was also given a Native American name. At periodic ceremonial meetings, the girls were rewarded for their efforts with beads, used to decorate their uniforms.

Louise Blair Camp Fire records, 1913-1915, Ms 79896. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

The beads were orange for home crafts, red for heath crafts, brown for camp crafts, green for hand crafts, blue for nature lore, yellow for business, and red, white, and blue for patriotism. Some activities were required, such as tying a square knot and opening windows (presumably for the health benefits).

The optional activities included walking 40 miles in 10 days, preparing eggs in four different ways, keeping notes on raising two families of birds, knowing ten city institutions, and making shirtwaists. Each girl’s accomplishments were noted, along with the corresponding bead she would receive.

Louise Blair Camp Fire records, 1913-1915, Ms 79896. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

Blair typed up a report of the group’s activities in 1915.  Among other events, the report mentions a joint meeting with a Camp Fire group from South Manchester. We do not know what other towns had groups at the time.

When the author of this post participated in Camp Fire in Glastonbury in the late 1980s, it was still exciting to earn beads and patches. Our activities had changed somewhat, though. While we still took nature hikes and completed craft projects, I can’t imagine any of us knew what a shirtwaist was.

Camp Fire was present in Connecticut until the 1990s. Examples of Camp Fire uniforms may be found among the museum collections. Come visit and research!

March in the Archives: Part II

When I reviewed the catalog records from March, there were just too many worthy of being mentioned. This is a great problem to have! I therefore decided to split my report in two. If you missed the first part, about Civil War documents, you may read it here. Catalog entries for these, and many more collections, are in our online catalog.

Austin Kilbourn was a native of Glastonbury, Connecticut. His copy and memo books comprise three volumes and are filled with poetry; lists of things, such as English peers and mottoes; and many memorials. Subjects of the poetry range from the post office to temperance. The third volume (embossed with Eliza Kilbourn’s name) contains some longer writings, more short stories than poetry. Kilbourn also hand copied documents from when Lafayette visited the United States in 1825. One song, with music, is included in the third volume. Additionally, the third volume contains several time lines depicting leaders of nations. Kilbourn seems to have enjoyed studying British heraldry. Though not dated, the third volume also contains a mention of the California Gold rush having passed. (Ms 64637)

One of my personal favorites are the Dialegomenian Society records. The society was in the Greenfield Hill section of Fairfield, Connecticut. It appears to have been a debate society, but I am not entirely certain. I would love to learn more about it! (Ms 64772)

“The What-Cheer” was a student publication from the Tatnic Hill School in Brooklyn, Connecticut. Each of the three issues was edited by different combination of students. James W. Kimball and Hannah Robbins edited the 25-cent edition on February 3. The next week, the 37 1/2 cent issue was edited by Charles Webb and Jane L. Robbins. Editors James W. Kimball and Jane L. Robbins were joined by Associate Editors Francis Clark and Addie M. Robbins to compile the quarterly illustrated edition in March. It is completely hand written and drawn, with essays by fellow students. Each issue is tied together with colorful ribbons.

A variety of documents removed from the collections of the New Haven Colony Historical Society form this next collection. Removed because they lacked any connection to New Haven, Connecticut, the documents include correspondence, deeds, bonds, writs, summons, estate records, military commissions, and proprietors’ records.The earliest documents are proprietors’ records laying out the lands of Windsor, 1729, and the area west of Farmington and Simsbury, 1733. Within the correspondence are letters written to Daniel Sheldon of Litchfield, Connecticut, about the Revolutionary War battle at Kingsbury and the occupation of Washington by the British in 1814. Uriah Tracy was among his correspondents. Another body of correspondence was written to Charles Sherry of Norwalk, Connecticut, 1836-1844, from his brother MRS. The Brown family of Stonington, Connecticut, is well represented in the collection with estate records, distribution of property, deeds, financial records and receipts for shares in the Groton & Stonington Turnpike, 1827. Brown family members include Ichabod (several generations), Elias, Palmer and Nelson. Another body of records relates to the town of Huntington, Connecticut, and resident Samuel P. Mills. There are bonds, writs, land records with plot plans, and tax documents, 1811-1833. Similar materials exist for the Sanford family of Redding, Connecticut, specifically Lemuel, Jonathan R. and Thomas. Within their papers are three tickets to P.T. Barnum’s Museum. Of particular interest is a pamphlet entitled “Heads of Inquiry relative to the present state and condition of . . . Connecticut”, 1775. It was presented to Colonel John Trumbull by President John Adams, through the person of Josiah Quincy. Inside the pamphlet and affixed to the front cover is a receipt noting that Jeremiah Wadsworth purchased two prints by John Trumbull in 1788. The prints were the Battle of Bunker’s Hill and the Death of General Montgomery. Filed under D for Danforth is a bill of sale for pewter, 1814, sold by Samuel Danforth.

Reverend Samuel Peters, a native of Hebron, Connecticut and graduate of Yale College,  served as Rector of St. Peter’s Church in Hebron for several years. His correspondence is arranged chronologically, and begins in 1774, the year Peters fled to London because of his Loyalist sympathies. He returned to the United States in 1805 and was living in New York City when he died in 1826. Many of the letters are written to and by members of Peters’ extended family, including nephew John Samuel Peters. John Samuel Peters practiced medicine and held several political posts in Connecticut, including Governor. The elder Peters also corresponded with Rev. Benjamin Trumbull, a fellow Hebron native and a pastor in North Haven.

We end with a diary kept by General Lemuel Grosvenor of Pomfret, Connecticut. He began keeping the diary on April 17, 1775 and mentions three days later that six or eight of their men were at Lexington, but did not fight. The entries are generally only a sentence or two. The volume has been rebound and the pages conserved. Grosvenor received his commission as a second lieutenant, signed by Governor John Trumbull, on 10 June 1777. Lemuel Grosvenor advanced to the rank of Brigadier General of the Militia, and he served at Bunker Hill with his father-in-law General Israel Putnam. On 7 November 1789, General Washington visited Lemuel Grosvenor and appointed him the first Postmaster of Pomfret, with offices opening 1 January 1795. Lemuel Grosvenor served as Postmaster for nearly 40 years until his death on 19 January 1833.

All of these collections are open for research. Come visit!

Albert Walker, magician, redux

At long last, Albert Walker, the magician of Glastonbury, Connecticut, has had his diaries reunited. Twenty-two volumes dating from 1867-1895 recently arrived on our doorstep. Unfortunately, they shed no additional light on his magic performances, with one exception. On April 20, 1867, he went to Hartford to see some Japanese performers. Inside the back cover of the volume, he made these interesting notes:

“When I am out of work I must try my performance in connection with a
lottery combined also tin pedling [sic]

I saw a new kind of juglars [sic] box at the Japanese performance in
Hartford that was made to turn over in another large one

At least we know that he was still showing an interest in his performances; however, except for a few notations about his fiddle and playing for dances, Albert remains mute about his avocation. What he does do is give us more information on his family. In 1867 his brother Charles died in Boston and Albert was named his administrator. Charles went by an alias, Henry C. West. Intriguing, and one wants to know why. That same year, in March, their younger sister Mary married John Blish. Their first child died in December, probably right after birth.

By 1884 Albert was married to “Tillie” [Matilda Schieding] with whom he had two children, Edna Elizabeth and Howard Albert. He continued to make spoons, repair and clean clocks, paint and repair wagons, and by the end of his life appears to have elevated himself to the status of “gentleman farmer,” hiring others to work for him.

Magician’s diaries

We recently (January 2007) purchased at auction ten diaries written by Albert Walker (1836-1902) of Glastonbury, Connecticut. He was a farmer and spoon maker by trade, but also rolled cigars, repaired and cleaned clocks, played the fiddle for dances, and performed magic and ventriloquism. An essay he wrote on ventriloquism and dialog for a Punch and Judy play are written in one volume accompanying the diaries. The diaries date from 1856-1865 and provide just hints of his magic performances. For example, on August 28, 1856, he wrote, “factory boys come up after segars [sic] performed a few tricks.” On January 2 of the same year, he went to Hartford and got his “performing apparatus”. In 1857, he spent two nights in September working on his Punch and Judy images and his dancing image. All three of these puppets/figures plus several more characters are now part of the museum collection, part of the same purchase. Walker’s “performing apparatus” includes the box or trunk he made and painted himself, curtains, magic wands, metal and cardboard cups, an assistant’s costume, card tricks and side tables. This is the most complete collection of magic-related material anyone on staff has ever seen.