History of a Cosmopolite

lorenzo-dow-by-lossing-barrett
Lorenzo Dow preaching by Lossing Barrett. Courtesy of Wikipedia.org

Some years ago I researched my husband’s ancestor Jerreb Kendall (1804–1839) of Passumpsic, Caledonia County, Vermont, and took pleasure in the interesting names given to many of Jerreb’s eleven siblings by their parents Jerreb and Lucy (Woods) Kendall.

I liked the thoughtfulness and weightiness behind given names like George Washington, William Wallace, Alonzo Ransom, James Eaton, Larnard Lamb, and Lorenzo Dow. (And I could almost sense the rejoicing that accompanied the selection of the name Lucy Celestia, which was given to the twelfth child – and the first and only daughter!)

I recognized the names George Washington and William Wallace, of course, but didn’t think too much about the names I didn’t recognize. I probably assumed that they were selected in honor of relatives or friends, or simply because the Kendall parents found them attractive.

Recently, member Susan Carle Young of Tulsa, Oklahoma, wrote to me in response to a Weekly Genealogist survey question about ancestors connected to newspapers. Her relative, Lorenzo Dow Morris, born in Williamsburg, Ohio, in 1818, was a nineteenth-century newspaper publisher in Iowa. I was interested in the newspaper story, but I was also intrigued by the reappearance of the name Lorenzo Dow, which I recalled from my Kendall research. I took to the Internet to find out who had inspired these namesake Lorenzo Dows.

[Nineteenth-century] Americans would have been astonished at the idea of someone not knowing who Lorenzo Dow was.

I discovered that Lorenzo Dow (b. in Coventry, Connecticut in 1777), was an extremely popular traveling minister. His Wikipedia entry is a fascinating read. Dow’s autobiography, History of Cosmopolite: or, The Writings of Rev. Lorenzo Dow: Containing his Experience and Travels, in Europe and America, was a bestseller – and, in fact, was for a time apparently second only to the Bible in popularity. I realized that nineteenth-century Americans would have been astonished at the idea of someone not knowing who Lorenzo Dow was.

I next searched for the origin of Larnard Lamb Kendall’s given names. He was apparently named for Lieutenant Colonel Larnard Lamb of Montpelier, Vermont, a carpenter and mill-wright. In 1807, he wrote one of the state’s first military training treatises (The Militia’s Guide), and a year later he commanded the U.S. troops present at the first meeting of the legislature in Vermont’s State House.

[They] admired a military figure associated with Vermont as well as an eccentric, itinerant preacher.

Obviously I don’t know what Jerreb and Lucy (Woods) Kendall thought and felt and believed. But knowing that they named sons Larnard Lamb Kendall in 1811 and Lorenzo Dow Kendall in 1817 acquaints me with them a bit more. I know they admired a military figure associated with Vermont as well as an eccentric, itinerant preacher. And I now know that the Kendalls and Morrises weren’t alone in naming their sons Lorenzo Dow; it turns out that Lorenzo was one of the most popular names in the 1850 census. I found one other Larnard Lamb namesake – an Eastman – and think that there are probably more.

I also searched for “Alonzo Ransom.” I found others with the name and saw the phrase “Alonzo’s ransom” used in early nineteenth-century plays, but didn’t find a clear reference to the meaning and source. James Easton Kendall was likely named for someone specific, but the use of “James Easton” is so common that my initial searches didn’t produce any obvious relevant matches. But I feel certain that there are more meanings to decipher from the Kendall brothers’ names.

No doubt it is a truism to note that as modern Americans we fail to grasp much of the cultural context of our ancestors. Learning about Lorenzo Dow and Larnard Lamb reminds me how much I don’t know.

About Lynn Betlock

Lynn Betlock joined the NEHGS staff in October 1995. She previously held the positions of sales manager, director of marketing, and assistant executive director for content management at NEHGS. Lynn has been the editor of American Ancestors since 2003, and she has written numerous articles for the publication. Lynn graduated with a B.A. from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. She received her M.A. in American History from the University of Delaware. Before coming to NEHGS Lynn was employed at the Old South Meeting House in Boston.

9 thoughts on “History of a Cosmopolite

  1. This 21st century individual didnt know who Lorenzo Dow was either. So I looked him up after finding many people in my ancestor research who were named for him. Lorenzo Dow Seward b. abt. 1846 IN; Lorenzo Dow Patton b. 1819 OH; Lornezo Dow Blodgett b. abt. 1850 IN; Lorenzo Dow Drew b. 1833 NH; Lorenzo Dow Drew b. 1851 Quebec; Lorenzo Dow Patch b. 1838 NH, and about 6 more whose middle initial was D, which could also possibly be Dow.

  2. Great post Lynn. There is a fairly good recording of the life of Lorenzo Dow in “The Book of Dow : Genealogical memoirs of the descendants of Henry Dow 1637, Thomas Dow 1639 and others of the name, immigrants…” I am distantly related to the Dows of Coventry by marriage. He was quite the fellow. – What a clan!

  3. I recognized the name Lorenzo Dow from my research, and found at least 1 distant cousin with that name: Lorenzo Dow McIntosh, born 1820 in Monticello NY. There is also a Lorenzo D. Eddy (1837, Randolph MA) who is a possibility. Who knew??

  4. I was researching my wife’s Morgan line from the Cumberland Gap region of VA, TN, and KY. Her 2nd Great Grandfather’s name was Lorenzo Dow Morgan, b. 1841, d. 1909.I could find no ancestors to account for his name so I too went to Google and was also pretty amazed at the origin of the name. I hadn’t hear of the book “History of Cosmopolite”, but now that I have I will have to find a copy.

  5. Wonderfully inspiring post. Is there any study of the very unusual first names of Vermont in the late 18th and early 19th centuries? This line of research might be useful to confirm and connect the strangest given names in my tree, such as Uranics (Urania?) and Vilius. I blame part of it on the terrible transcription (via dictaphone maybe?) of Vermont Vitals, but many of the names reappear in similar form in censuses and church records. Many of them were Latin styled or sounding. All these families came from (earliest records) the Middletown, Connecticut area.

    1. I would love to find articles about non-standard naming conventions in NE during that time period as well. One ancestor and several of his siblings had classical names that seemed to come out of nowhere: John Tunis Sawyer (1843), Flavious Josephius Sawyer (1837), George Erustus Sawyer (1850), and Helen Augusta Sawyer (1851).

  6. Names ARE intriguing. My husband’s great-grandfather was named William Tryon Whitmore, which I thought at first was a misspelling of Tyrone, but learned William Tryon was a well-known maternal family ancestor. William T. Whitmore and one brother were the only two children in the large family with middle names. The other, Benjamin Mattrix, I can’t find in any historical context, but I wonder, since their father fought in the Civil War, was he named for a dear comrade?
    The name that I most enjoyed finding was for the 10th and last child in a family — Silence!

  7. I have at least three ancestors/relatives in Massachusetts and Rhode Island named Lorenzo Dow. He was a highly regarded (Methodist?) preacher. One Tallman family in RI named several sons for famous preachers, including Frederick Upham and Reuben Ransom.

  8. My great grandfather was named Lorenzo Dow Bright..and knowing of no Italians in the family, wondered where the name Lorenzo had come from. I, too, did research and discovered much about that interesting and once famous man. His name also was used by some of my great grandfather’s cousins and descendants.

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