Tag Archives: U.S. Presidents

New Englanders in the South

Kimberlys of North Carolina

Earlier this month I went to the National Genealogical Society conference in Raleigh, North Carolina; it was my first time in the Tar Heel State. While I have many southern ancestors who started out in Virginia and Maryland before heading west, none of them – as far as I have found – lived in North Carolina or further south. However, through some of my New England ancestry in Connecticut, I have a brief connection to North Carolina in the late seventeenth century. While not necessarily the “normal” migration, there are several cases of New Englanders going south rather than west, many times settling there permanently. Continue reading New Englanders in the South

‘The salvation of the country’

Regina Shober Gray by [Edward L.] Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
Mrs. Gray’s diary[1] continues, with the results of the 1864 presidential election:

61 Bowdoin Street, Boston, Wednesday, 9 November 1864: The great election-day passed off without disorder or disturbance – and, Thank God, Lincoln is re-elected by splendid majorities. Every New Eng. state, Penna. & New York state have gone for him. New Y. city went McClellan[2] by 30,000 majority – but that was expected; & he has New Jersey & Kentucky – all the others are Lincoln.

Kansas did not even have an opposition ticket, so heartily Republican was the whole state. The long anxiety, suspense, & dread are over – a good God has overruled the madness of home traitors for their own ruin, and the salvation of the country; that accursed Chicago platform, the offspring of foul treason, cowardice, and political corruption, happily trampled McClellan’s hopes to nothingness. He might have had some chance but for that. Continue reading ‘The salvation of the country’

‘True as the needle to the pole’

Regina Shober Gray by [Edward L.] Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
The diarist Regina Shober Gray[1] began the Civil War with mixed feelings about the new American president; by late 1864 she had no doubts about his integrity or his importance to the nation.

61 Bowdoin Street, Boston, Sunday, 6 November 1864: Mr. Foote[2] gave us a good discourse on the distinction to be held between religious form & religious formalism, and illustrated his meaning by an eloquent allusion the love for our country’s flag – which is after all naught in itself but a piece of coloured bunting, our love for which in times of peace and prosperity is but a form of words, a mode of thought, used to sound the periods of a fourth of July nation.[3] But when war and peril assail its sacred folds, it becomes to us the emblem of all man holds most dear on earth – the holy emblem of all the great ideas for which true men are ready to suffer & die now, as were the martyrs of old. Continue reading ‘True as the needle to the pole’

Remembering William Monroe Trotter

William Monroe Trotter

The documentary “Birth of a Movement” – which premiered on 30 January at the Somerville Theatre outside Boston, and airs nationally on PBS on Monday 6 February during African-American History Month – explores D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation (1915) through a modern lens. What caught my attention about the film is the documentary’s protagonist, famed civil rights activist William Monroe Trotter (1872–1934). Trotter lived nearly his entire life in Boston and founded the Boston Guardian, an independent African-American newspaper. He also established the Niagara Movement, in 1915, with fellow Massachusetts native W.E.B. DuBois, and participated in numerous other causes for civil rights until his death in 1934. Continue reading Remembering William Monroe Trotter

‘In this busy world’

[Author’s note: This series, on Mrs. Gray’s reading habits, began here.]

PP231.236 Regina Shober Gray. Not dated.
Regina Shober Gray by [Edward L.] Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
Regina Shober Gray[1] turned forty-five at the end of 1863; her children were growing up. At the same time, her younger sister Sue – unmarried and a ruthless flirt – worried Mrs. Gray, while changes wrought by the Civil War gave her some hope for the future:

61 Bowdoin Street, Boston, Sunday, 6 September 1863: Yesterday was Frank [Gray]’s[2] 17th birthday – how time flies. He is back at Harvard looking to a year of hard study. His chum, Abthorpe,[3] has not appeared yet, nor has he written to F., who hears from some that A. will not go on at Harvard another year; meanwhile Frank cannot settle in his new quarters till he does hear from Abthorpe – the poison-cold,[4] which has troubled F.C.G. for many years, 5 or 6, at this season, is far lighter in its attack now than ever before, and we hope it may be wearing out of his system.

Sunday, 13 September 1863: … Frank hears to-day that Abthorp is not coming back to Harvard – so he has lost his chum. We dined at Sallie Gray[5] on Tuesday and had a pleasant day. And on Monday p.m. took tea with Hepsa B[radlee][6] at Medford. Continue reading ‘In this busy world’

‘The crooked paths straight’

abraham-lincoln-campaign-banner-cropped
Courtesy of Wikimedia.org

It might seem odd, but the 1860 election – pitting Congressman Abraham Lincoln and Senator Hannibal Hamlin against Senator John Cabell Breckenridge and Senator Joseph Lane – did not particularly transfix the nation – at least if one goes by Regina Shober Gray’s[1] diary.

There was plenty of pageantry on offer: Continue reading ‘The crooked paths straight’

‘One’s vanity does penance always’

[Author’s note: This series, on Mrs. Gray’s reading habits, began here.]

PP231.236 Regina Shober Gray. Not dated.
Regina Shober Gray by [Edward L.] Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
Of particular interest in these entries is Regina Shober Gray’s[1] depiction of being photographed in September 1861: “I hope [the resulting pictures] will be reasonably good, but one’s vanity does penance always in these cartes de visite likenesses. Gentlemen look well in them, but they almost always give a harsh, stern unnatural look to a woman’s face.”[2] Mrs. Gray noted that her own standards were relatively flexible, reporting that her friend Rebecca Wainwright[3] “does not think my photographs very successful – but I feel that I ought to be satisfied with them – they are quite as good of me as other peoples are of them. Hard and rigid looking.”[4]

61 Bowdoin Street, Boston, Thursday, 5 September 1861: Frank [Gray]’s[5] birth-day – 15 years old. I can hardly realize it. He had presents from myself, “Barrington’s Heraldry,”[6] from Aunt Liz [Shober][7] a dollar, from Mary C. [Gray][8] 3 engraved Shirt Studs. His eyes are decidedly better. Continue reading ‘One’s vanity does penance always’

‘A free citizen’

PP231.236 Regina Shober Gray. Not dated.
Regina Shober Gray by [Edward L.] Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
[Author’s note: This series, on Mrs. Gray’s reading habits, began here.]

By the winter of 1861, an American civil war loomed. Regina Shober Gray[1] – a native of Pennsylvania with Southern connections[2] – was disposed to some sort of emancipation for the South’s slaves, with due respect for slave-owners’ existing property rights, but her views (and emphases) would change over the course of the next four years.

61 Bowdoin Street, Boston, Sunday, 3 March 1861: A summer’s day – absolutely oppressive. Sorry to hear from Aunt Sarah Bradlee[3] how very sick Henry [Bradlee][4] seems. There was some talk of sending him on a long voyage, but he is too ill for that. Continue reading ‘A free citizen’

Creative dating

fulton-lichenI think about genealogy for much of my day. Therefore, on a recent trip to Boston’s Museum of Science, I was again thinking about how I could apply something that I learned that day to make me a better genealogist. Thankfully, the Museum has a new(er) exhibit that is designed to teach participants how to use context clues to properly date an old schoolhouse. The exhibit points to evidence that helps users to identify when the schoolhouse closed – specifically, drawing their attention to portraits of U.S. Presidents surrounding the room, concluding with Richard Nixon. (The students in my group eventually determined that the school probably closed between 1969 and 1974.) As a student who studied Public History in graduate school, the exhibit is fantastic. A perfect blend of education, logic, and most importantly, fun… Continue reading Creative dating

ICYMI: Family papers

[Author’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 19 August 2015.]

John Steward boxMy grandfather died almost 25 years ago, and sometime before that he gave me a box of “family papers.” The box itself is rather striking: a metal strong box, easily portable, with my great-great-grandfather John Steward’s name stenciled on top in fading paint. Inside the box are not just family papers, but intriguing (and, of course, unidentified) daguerreotypes and examples of other early photographic processes, along with materials treating the family of my great-grandmother, Margaret Atherton (Beeckman) Steward (1861–1951). Continue reading ICYMI: Family papers