All posts by Scott C. Steward

About Scott C. Steward

Scott C. Steward has been NEHGS’ Editor-in-Chief since 2013. He is the author, co-author, or editor of genealogies of the Ayer, Le Roy, Lowell, Saltonstall, Thorndike, and Winthrop families. His articles have appeared in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, NEXUS, New England Ancestors, American Ancestors, and The Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine, and he has written book reviews for the Register, The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, and the National Genealogical Society Quarterly.

‘A stranger to us’

Regina Shober Gray by [Edward L.] Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
The Grays’ summer was flying by in Marion, and Regina Shober Gray[1] faced new social responsibilities as her daughter Mary[2] ventured into society:

Sunday, 6 August 1865: A week ago last Wed’y, I went up to Boston to make my deserted husband a visit, intending to return early on Friday; but some deeds were sent on for the girls[3] to sign before a commissioner – so they had to come up on Friday morning and I waited, of course, to return with them p.m.

Frank [Gray][4] went to Worcester that mg. for the [rowing] regatta – he was so excited about it that he hardly slept for 2 nights previous. If he took it so hard, what must have been the excitement of the fellows actually competing in the race; and alas! for all their hopes and efforts, the Yale men bore the palm, in both races – and Harvard was only second best. Continue reading ‘A stranger to us’

‘Crowded with berries’

Regina Shober Gray by [Edward L.] Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
From time to time Regina Shober Gray[1] pauses to describe what she sees and hears, and it is usually a feast for the senses: In its way the place is very lovely, very placid, with the soft sinuous curves of its low green shores, its bright little islets and its glassy waters reflecting, as would the quietest inland lake, the counterpart of the upper world in the calm depths below. The tide swells dreamily up and ebbs sleepily down, with never a ripple to disturb its ineffable complacency…

61 Bowdoin Street, Boston, Sunday, 16 July 1865: [The diarist’s sisters] Mary & Lizzie Shober[2] arrived duly by Newport train yesterday morning. It is so good to have them here – more than 9 years since Mary’s last visit to me, at the time of [Mrs. Gray’s son] Morris’s birth – since then this devoted sister has never left our brother John[3] day or night, save when she went to Baltimore on Susan Drinker’s[4] death, to be with Aunt Catharine[5] for 3 days. It is a painful effort to her to come now, but she bears up bravely, and will I am sure be better for the change. It has been a frantically busy week with me – but the [sewing] work is pretty thoroughly finished up, with Isabella to help for 10 days past. Continue reading ‘Crowded with berries’

‘All in the dark’

Regina Shober Gray by [Edward L.] Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
Boston’s sultry summers made seaside resorts appealing, but each year Regina Shober Gray[1] struggled to find her family attractive rooms in likely houses outside the city.

61 Bowdoin Street, Boston, Sunday, 18 June 1865: Our summer plans are still in abeyance. Dr. & Fred. Gray[2] went down to see what could be done for us at Pigeon Cove,[3] and came back entirely dissatisfied with the place. The best houses there are kept by Mrs. James Edmonds, Mrs. Elisha Edmonds, Mrs. Story, & Mrs. Babson. [The] rooms are small, the terms high, no beach for bathing – bathe in holes off the rocks, and hold on by ropes!! Mrs. Morland,[4] who has boarded at Marion, says it is very hot & sultry there.

I have written to Mrs. Martin at Manchester – but I know she will not take us, and if she does … she will starve us; but that we can bear, I suppose, and guard against. Her house is charming – and I would gladly risk the table for the sake of getting a place for Mary Shober[5] on that lovely Manchester shore; and I think the boys would have a good time too, though they do say Manchester is “played out.” Continue reading ‘All in the dark’

‘The pleasure of his acquaintance’

John Campbell White (1884-1967), Roosevelt’s Ambassador to Haiti and then Peru, and a great-great-grandson of Dr. John Campbell White of Baltimore. Courtesy of Wikipedia.org

The name Campbell has been a favored first or middle name in the Steward family for the last 170 years; before that it passed down in the White family of Baltimore and New York, where it was still recently in use. It was my great-great-great-grandfather Campbell Patrick White (1787–1859) who seems to have been the first to bear the name as a first name, and perhaps it was his father, Dr. John Campbell White (1757?–1847), who was the first White with the Campbell middle name.[1]

So the Campbells had a name with which to conjure, and according to a nineteenth-century cousin it was thanks to the marriage of Dr. White’s parents, the Rev. Robert White and Jane Thompson, that the name entered the White family. Jane and Robert were cousins, but it was Jane who was “the aunt of Sir John Campbell, Lieutenant General of the Isle of Jersey, and a connection of John Campbell the great Duke of Argyle.” Continue reading ‘The pleasure of his acquaintance’

‘Meetings and greetings’

Regina Shober Gray by [Edward L.] Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
After less than a week in Philadelphia, Regina Shober Gray[1] was back in Boston and deep in domestic duties. In the following entries the diarist manages to refer to two of her husband’s relatives, both of them named (or married to a man named) Horace Gray. In the first paragraph of her 4 June entry, Mrs. Gray names her four sons:

61 Bowdoin Street, Boston, Sunday, 4 June 1865: We left Philad[elphia] on Friday morning and came through by Stonington boat. Horace Gray[2] kindly secured our double stateroom and met us in N. York. We had good weather; but the journey is very fatiguing to me – and I feel quite used up to day. Morris too does not get over the fatigue. I think the warm weather in Philad. did not agree with him. Regie is in high spirits, and the meetings and greetings, with the few of his friends now in town, are very hilarious! Dear little warm hearted fellow, every one is glad to welcome him back. Frank & Sam came up from Manchester yest’y p.m. Continue reading ‘Meetings and greetings’

ICYMI: Another day at the beach

[Author’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 9 June 2016.]

I am fortunate in having photographs of many of my relatives, and more fortunate still in that I can identify so many of them. Often the work has been done for me, as to names; sometimes my work is cut out for me in terms of fitting them into the family tree. I have photos of all four of my grandparents as children, in the early years of the twentieth century, so I’m also lucky that my great-grandparents (or other relatives) took the trouble to take them to a professional photographer to be recorded.

My paternal grandfather, Gilbert Livingston Steward (1898–1991), was photographed by Scheur of New York – I think! It is one of the photos in my paternal grandmother’s album, and I like to think it was a present from my great-grandmother[1] at the time of my grandparents’ engagement in 1927. The photo shows GLS at about the time he went off to St. George’s School in Rhode Island. Continue reading ICYMI: Another day at the beach

‘A very isolated family’

Regina Shober Gray by [Edward L.] Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
By the end of May 1865, Regina Shober Gray’s son Reginald had been staying with his aunts for six months; his visit was meant to help the Shober sisters as they mourned their brother John. Mrs. Gray[1] took her youngest son with her to collect Regie Gray and visit with her sisters:

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Tuesday, 30 May 1865: We came here on Saturday, Morris and I, and are going home next Sat.y. Taking Regie, who is wonderfully grown & improved for his six months’ stay here with the beloved Aunties. I have but once heard him scrape his throat – at home it was incessant – and will be I fear again in our harsher air. This is a real summer day – and I am glad I decided to come on now, instead of three weeks later, as the girls think the warm weather has already pulled Regie down somewhat. I find my sisters looking pretty well – but it is very sad for them in their home without John – they do not get used to the loss, and now that Aunt Regina is gone they feel very desolate. Continue reading ‘A very isolated family’

Artistic imposture

Belva Kibler and Dorothy Dow by Carl Van Vechten.

The recent acquisition of a 1947 photograph of the mezzo-soprano Dorothy Dow playing Susan B. Anthony[1] made me think about how historic figures have been represented on stage and in film – and, thus, in the still photographs that capture moments in these productions. In most cases, inevitably, the production choices reflect the date of the production as much as the purported date of the action. This example, by Carl Van Vechten, tells us as much about Van Vechten as it does Susan B. Anthony. While the setting is presumably the stage set for a scene in the opera, the lighting and even the backdrop belong in the photographer’s own studio. Continue reading Artistic imposture

‘No sin in being tempted’

Regina Shober Gray by [Edward L.] Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
In these entries from the Regina Shober Gray[1] diary, we find her analysis of a sermon at King’s Chapel as well as reflections on a yearned-for musical performance of the Handel & Haydn Society, the latter foregone as she was in mourning for two members of her family back in Philadelphia.

61 Bowdoin Street, Boston, Wednesday, 10 May 1865: Poor Lottie Hemingway [sic] was buried at noon yesterday. [It] was a pouring rain, and I suppose no one dared to go to the house – the disease is so fearfully malignant. If sympathy could comfort, her poor mother might be consoled, for all our hearts ache for her. And she must be so anxious for the other children. It seems Lottie did not sicken till Wednesday and [her sister] Amy[2] slept with her as usual till that time – spotted fever with violent spinal inflammation.

Our precious daughter[3] comes home tomorrow from her week’s visit to Annie Dixwell.[4] We shall be glad to get her back – she leaves an awful blank in her absence. Continue reading ‘No sin in being tempted’

‘Neutral ground’

Frederick Ayer

Many of us have bunches of old family letters set aside to review – preferably with the sender and the recipient already noted on the envelope. Years ago, as I was researching my first family history (The Sarsaparilla Kings[1]), I was fortunate enough to have some published (as well as unpublished) sources available to consider the relationship between my great-great-grandfather Frederick Ayer (1822–1918) – one of the two Sarsaparilla Kings – and his son-in-law George Smith Patton Jr. (1885–1945).

Frederick Ayer made two distinct fortunes – in patent medicines with his elder brother, Dr. J. C. Ayer, and in textiles and other investments later in life – and by the turn of the twentieth century he was a wealthy man. His second wife, Ellen Barrows Banning (1853–1918), was a member of a sprawling family with connections in Delaware, Minnesota, and California, among them to the family of George and Ruth Patton of San Gabriel, California. Continue reading ‘Neutral ground’