Category Archives: NEHGS Collections

‘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’

‘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’

‘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’

‘The glory and the gloom’

Regina Shober Gray by [Edward L.] Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
While the obsequies associated with President Lincoln’s death and burial continued into May 1865, Regina Shober Gray’s[1] thoughts turned to other subjects as well. It would also seem that the Shober gift for descriptive writing was present in at least one of the diarist’s sisters.

61 Bowdoin Street, Boston, Thursday, 4 May 1865: This day no doubt the weary, restless, and unparalleled funeral march for our beloved President ends in the sealed silence of the tomb, and mortal eyes have looked their last of earth upon the martyred statesman & patriot. At last he rests in peace forevermore, emphatically alone in the glory and the gloom of his immortal story. For where in all history shall we find a man risen from the very people, untrained in the “learning of the schools,” unpolished by the habitude of cultivated society, who could have so nobly acquitted himself in the high station to which God, and the people God-guided, called this true patriot and humbleminded Christian, this far seeing, cautious, yet tenacious statesman, this genial-hearted and merciful man? Continue reading ‘The glory and the gloom’

ICYMI: Thank an antiquarian

[Editor’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 22 April 2016.]

Engraving of the town of Lenox, Massachusetts, by John Warner Barber. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Genealogists and historians of Massachusetts are indebted to the works of nineteenth-century antiquarians: that is, compilers or collectors of historical information and antiquities. The works of several antiquarians – including John Warner Barber, Samuel Gardner Drake, and John Haven Dexter – have become crucial reference works in the study of Massachusetts genealogy. Knowing what these sources contain, along with their respective shortcomings, can be helpful when researching your Massachusetts ancestors. Continue reading ICYMI: Thank an antiquarian

‘Something to remember’

Regina Shober Gray by [Edward L.] Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
While to us the Civil War ended suddenly, over a period of days early in April 1865, for Regina Shober Gray[1] it still dragged on at the end of the month:

61 Bowdoin Street, Boston, Sunday, 30 April 1865: We had a thoroughly fine discourse to-day from James Freeman Clarke,[2] and he made an admirable prayer for us & our country – not too long, but comprising all our need. It has been a sad solemn week. The slow march of the martyred President’s funeral train has shaken earth with the heavy tramp of this mighty army of mourners; for hundreds of miles across our wide country, hundreds of thousands of men & women have stood with bowed, bared heads & burdened hearts in the funeral train of this good great man, revered in life, sainted in death. Had ever mortal man such grand burial pageant before?

This day week we were all distressed & anxious at hearing of Sherman’s[3] armistice & peace treaty with Johnston,[4] granting the rebels such terms as the loyal people would never have consented to yield them, when they were strongest – far less now, when rebeldom is in a state of collapse. Continue reading ‘Something to remember’

‘The old familiar music’

Regina Shober Gray by [Edward L.] Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
Skipping ahead in the Regina Shober Gray[1] diary to Christmas 1870, the Gray family – along with Mrs. Gray’s siblings, the Shobers, and the diarist’s closest friends – was both generous and imaginative in its gift-giving.

61 Bowdoin Street, Boston, Sunday, 18 December 1870: Cold weather at last – Morris [Gray] had a good day’s skating on the little pond at Uncle John [Gray]’s[2] in Cambridge yesterday – and is tired out to day par consequent. Cora Weld & F.G. Peabody[3] have really enjoyed her visit here this week – she is much more accessible here, from Cambridge, where his duties [at Harvard Divinity School] confine him steadily, than at Jamaica Plain – and he can see her every day instead of only 2 or 3 times a week. I am not a very fierce duenna, having been young and in love once myself; so we leave them to themselves a great deal… Continue reading ‘The old familiar music’

Compiling knowledge

Applicants to the Society of the Descendants of the Colonial Clergy (SDCC) must have “a proven lineal lawful descent from a clergyman who was regularly ordained, installed, or settled over a Christian church within the limits of the thirteen colonies prior to 4 July 1776.” Although not a descendant of a colonial clergy ancestor, I was invited to attend the SDCC business meeting on Saturday, 4 November 2017, because I was a speaker during their annual meeting luncheon. Continue reading Compiling knowledge

Ninigret II

Courtesy of RISD Museum. RISDM 48-246

A relatively recent treasure added to the NEHGS collections is a late nineteenth-/early twentieth-century oil painting of a Native American sachem. NEHGS purchased this painting in early 2016 from an art dealer. The portrait is traditionally believed to depict Ninigret II (ca. 1610–1677), a sachem of the eastern Niantics, a Narragansett tribe that held extensive lands in what is today Rhode Island.

Ninigret appears to have been a skillful player on the stage of seventeenth-century New England politics. He allied the Niantics with the English against the Pequots in 1637, and kept his tribe out of King Philip’s War in the 1670s. Continue reading Ninigret II

‘Crushed by our great loss’

Regina Shober Gray by [Edward L.] Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
Regina Shober Gray’s[1] account of the aftermath of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination continues, although a hint of the return of normal life appears at the end of her 23 April entry.

61 Bowdoin Street, Boston, Monday, 17 April 1865: We have captured Mobile, with 3,000 prisoners & 300 cannon. We have long held its harbor & forts – now this, the last important Southern seaport, is in our hands. A few days ago how gladly we would have greeted this good news – now we are so crushed by our great loss, so stunned by the awful circumstances attending it, that we hardly give any heed to the new tale of success!

President Lincoln’s funeral takes place on Wednes’y April 19th! The anniversary of battle of Lexington – and of the firing on Mass. 6th in 1861, by the mob in Baltimore. Continue reading ‘Crushed by our great loss’