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Gertrude Codman Carter’s Diary, October 1917

Today we return to the 1917 diary of Gertrude Codman Carter. You may read the previous entries here:

 

Introduction | January | February | March | April | May

June | July | August | September

 

October 1917 is a lean month in Gertrude’s records, possibly because of Gilbert Carter’s return home from his long absence while Gertrude was relocating the family to Ilaro. After a final, hurried day of preparation on October 1st, Gilbert and Wickham -- the household servant who had traveled with him -- arrive and are greeted in fine style by a “grand gala festival.”

The sketch of her son, pasted over the entry for October 28th, has a faint inscription that seems to indicate that the drawing was made on the day of the visit to the photographer -- an inference supported by the fact that John appears to be wearing the same outfit as he wore in the photograph pasted into the September pages of the diary.

 

* * *

Oct 1.

Paid servants & rushed on with G’s room. Mickey & I moved books, put up curtains, laid down mats.

 

Oct 2.

Gilbert (and Wickham) arrived.

Grand gala festival.

Mr. Soelyn came up & witnessed my will.

 

Oct 3.

Talked.

 

Sketch of John

 

Oct 28.

G & I dined with Sir F. & Lady Clarke at the Crane. Festive occasion.

 

Oct 29.

Tea at the Challums. Laddy drove Mrs Gregg out & me in. 9 the [illegible].

We went to Bleak House.

 

Oct 30.

4.15 Miss Burton stonework.

 

Oct 31.

All Hallow’e’en Fete at the MacClaren’s 

Fete in red [illegible.]

 

* * *

As always, if you are interested in viewing the diary or letters yourself, in our library, or have other questions about the collection please visit the library or contact a member of the library staff for further assistance.

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 20 October, 2017, 12:00 AM

“Mark, Traveler, this humble stone”: Quaint and Curious Epitaphs of Copp’s Hill Burying Ground

I find a visit to any of New England’s burying grounds fascinating year-round, but I consider treading among slate gravestones and timeworn monuments in October a quintessential New England experience. The leaves turn and fall, beautifully marking a transition from livelier months to the eventual stillness of winter. It’s a fitting setting to consider the lives and deaths of those memorialized on surrounding grave markers. In Historical Sketch of Copp’s Hill Burying-Ground with Descriptions and Quaint Epitaphs, published in 1909, John Norton provides an overview of Copp’s Hill in Boston and the burying ground’s gravestones. Norton begins with a history of Copp’s Hill, spanning its early days as “the North burying ground” through a time “when the well-to-do of Boston dwelt largely in the North End” to the end of the burying ground’s growth around 1832. The second half of this publication includes photographs and epitaphs of select gravestones and monuments.

Hull Street Entrance, Copps Hill Burying Ground

 

As I read through this Historical Sketch, I realized I neglect to spend as much time as I should to pause and read headstones as I walk through a graveyard. It’s a shame, because whether you appreciate some blunt wisdom from the grave or simply enjoy an eerie epitaph, these gravestones have you covered. Thankfully, John Norton mitigates my neglect with this compilation of “old epitaphs, many of them, as is usual in old burying-grounds, quaint and curious, some incoherent and ungrammatical.” Reading these lines on paper might not have the same effect as seeing them inscribed on their intended medium, but I found this publication a handy tool for noticing themes and considering intentions of particular inscriptions.

Copps Hill Buyring Ground. (Central Part.)

 

Norton includes his own commentary on certain epitaphs. He remarks, “Doubtless the oddest and most puzzling is that over the grave of Mrs. Ammey Hunt, who died in 1769. We have no clue to the neighborhood gossip hinted at in these peculiar lines:

A sister of Sarah Lucas lieth here,

Whom I did Love most Dear;

And now her Soul hath took its Flight,

And bid her Spightful Foes good Night.

 

Norton continues, noting an “even more amusing…tradition connected with the following conventional stanza” on the stone of Mrs. Mary Huntley:

Stop here my friends & cast an eye,

As you are now, so once was I;

As I am now, so you must be,

Prepare for death and follow me.

 

This reminder is a common theme of Copp’s Hill epitaphs, some phrased more motivationally than others:

Susanna Gray, July 9, 1798,––42.

Stranger as this spot you tread,

And meditate upon the Dead;

Improve the moments as they fly,

For all that lives must shortly die.

 

Mrs. Mary Harvey, died May 2, 1782, aged 63:

Mark, Traveler, this humble stone

‘Tis death’s kind warning to prepare

Thou too must hasten to the tomb

And mingle with corruption there.

 

Mrs. Hariot Jacobus, died, May 27, 1812, aged 20:

Stop here my friends as you pass by,

As you are now, so once was I;

As I am now, so you must be,

Therefore prepare to follow me.

 

Others take a more resigned, if not foreboding, approach:

Mrs. Mary Hughes, d. in 1765, aged 46:

Time, What an empty vapour t’is,

            And days, how swift they flay:

Our life is ever on the Wing,

            And Death is ever nigh.

The Moment when our Lives begin,

            We all begin to die.

 

Mrs. Sarah Collins, died March 29, 1771, aged 62:

Be ye also Ready for you

Know not the Day nor hour.

 

Many epitaphs of younger women and children express themes of virtue and youth, imagery of fading flowers:

Miss Mary Fitzgerald, died Sept. 30, 1787, aged 19:

Virtue & youth just in the morning bloom

With the fair Mary finds an early Tomb.

 

John S. Johnson, died Sept. 9, 1829, aged 6:

See the lovely blooming flower,

Fades and withers in an hour

So our transient comforts fly,

Pleasure only bloom to die.

 

Others offer a sort of rational wisdom to console mourners:

Mrs. Deborah Blake, d. in 1791, aged 21 years:

Friends as you pass, suppress the falling tear;

You wish her out of heaven to wish her here.

 

Mrs. Abigail Cogswell, died Jan. 19. 1782, aged 42:

To those who for their loss are griev’d

This Consolation’s given,

They’re from a world of woe reliev’d

We trust they’re now in heaven.

 

If you have the opportunity, I encourage an autumn visit to Copp’s Hill and other historic New England burying grounds. While you take in the site and scenery, spend some time considering the lives and deaths of the individuals whose graves are marked. Read what they or their loved ones chose to be inscribed on their stones. For inspiration, historical sketches, and legible transcriptions of “ye ancient epitaphs,” as Norton writes, read more about visiting the library to work with Norton’s Historical Sketch of Copp’s Hill Burying-Ground and related material.

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Wednesday, 18 October, 2017, 12:00 AM

What did an Adams kid do for fun?

When John Quincy Adams was 59 years old, he wrote a nostalgic letter to his cousin William Cranch in which he pined for their shared childhood. This led me to wonder something—if you were an Adams kid, what did you do for fun?

 

 

John Adams’s absence from his family during this period provides a rich correspondence with their mother, Abigail, throughout which she describes the health and development of their “Little folks.” From Abigail’s letters, the children’s later reminiscences, and their skills evident as teenagers and adults, we can glean that Nabby, John Quincy, Charles, and Thomas passed most of their time with some combination of reading, shooting, chess, playing the flute, ice skating, keeping doves, and dancing.

When she wasn’t needed for household chores, Nabby could be found reading, playing cards, and gossiping with her cousins about their crushes. It is also probable that she accompanied her younger brothers when they went fishing, as she later describes fishing with John and Abigail while in England, or when they went on long walks, as her father believed in fresh air and exercise for young girls. Along the way, Nabby also must have become proficient in chess, as in 1786 her husband admitted to losing a game of chess to her. 

Like their elder sister, John Quincy and Charles loved to read. When John wrote home from Philadelphia and asked the children what presents they would like him to send home, Abigail replied, “I call[ed] them seperately and told them Pappa wanted to send them something and requested of them what they would have. A Book was the answer of them all only Tom wanted a picture Book and Charlss the History of king and Queen. It was natural for them to think of a Book as that is the only present Pappa has been used to make them.” As they grew older, John Quincy and Charles went for long walks and swims together, went shooting and ice skating, and took flute and dancing lessons.

Thomas, the youngest, enjoyed many of the same amusements of his older siblings, as evidenced by the necessity of abstaining from ice skating when he sustained a broken ankle. The “innocently playful” Thomas had an especially soft spot for animals. His aunt reported to Abigail, “Tom, a Rogue loves his Birds and his Doves, makes bad Lattin and says as he grows older he shall grow wiser.” When Thomas returned to live with Abigail, his aunt continued to send him reports of the animals. At fourteen, Thomas still appeared enamored with his pets, though John Quincy steered him towards more serious matters. His aunt wrote, “Thomas is A fine Lad, and does not run so often to look of his Doves in studying Hours, since Mr Adams has been here.”

Though it appears inconceivable to have a normal childhood when the enemy army is a few miles up the road, ten-year-old John Quincy confessed to his father that his thoughts were “running after birds eggs play & trifles,” and five-year-old Thomas couldn’t wait until his father returned home so that they could get back to playing “jail.” It seems that even when the world is turning upside down and countries are being crafted, a kid is still a kid. Even an Adams kid.

 

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Wednesday, 11 October, 2017, 12:00 AM

Gertrude Codman Carter’s Diary, September 1917

Today we return to the 1917 diary of Gertrude Codman Carter. You may read the previous entries here:

Introduction | January | February | March | April | May

June | July | August

September’s entries are heavily illustrated with drawings and photographs. Having just moved into Ilaro, Gertrude supervises continued construction at the site while managing the household in her husband’s absence. Domestic drama includes the “letting go” of a servant who “couldn’t stand the stairs” of the new residence, and the hiring of a replacement -- actions that do not endear Gertrude to her staff.

The war intrudes on the household once again as Gertrude receives a letter from the Colonial Secretary’s office with instruction for the conscription of her automobile in the event of an attack by the enemy. Amidst it all, Gertude continues to live a life of social obligation and voluntary labor as part of the Self-Help group and other island committees.

* * *

Sept 1.

Sent Barbara $50.

Moved into Ilaro. Toppin & Small, Edith & Norah & Ada, who couldn’t stand the stairs after all. We had our first dinner there on the marble verandah & it was quite lovely.

 

Sept 2.

Unpacked & tried to feel settled. John & I slept in the [illegible] room. Such fun.

 

Sept 3.

Rising bell at 7 a.m. & the house full up with very busy workmen,clanging & banging, sawing and jawing, [missing fragment], taping & scraping, patching & scratching, latching & detaching whatever was wrong, which happened after.

Our meal was rather full of coral dust but Topping was zealous & managed quite wonderfully for his age.

 

Sept 4.

Marked out servants quarters.

Mrs. Skeet came by to look at it.

I stopped at Charles Hayes at 6.30 and dined with Mrs. DaCosta.

 

Sept 5.

These little figures were made for a scale model of Ilaro, to gauge the height and width of doors.

Sept 6.

10.30 Civic Circle met at [illegible] Park.

 

Sept 7.

Called Chelston for washing. Gave up Ada & hired Rosina, a girl of the Cawfields. This, it appears, was considered by everyone below stairs as a fearful faux pas. I got no less than three anonymous letters on the subject, which outraged Bailey beyond measure.

 

Sept 8.

John began a letter & headed it “Ilaro Court limited.”

“What does it mean, John?” -- “Oh - just what it means on the honey bottle!”

 

Sept 9.

Laddie to tea & a little [illegible] out. He is very appreciative of my powers as an architect.

 

Sept 10.

Miss Hatfield called about the Easter Féte for my advice. I became a sort of unofficial Chairman of the Committee & advised in a Sybelline manner.

 

Sept 11.

To photographer with John. [illegible] had sticks -- both of them.

 

John Carter

 

4.30 to bathe at Mrs. Harold Whytes.

 

12 Sept.

Self-Help meeting

Miss [illegible] again.

Laddie later for a spin.

 

13 Sept.

[entry obscured by a typescript letter from the Colonial Secretary’s Office]

 

CONFIDENTIAL.

CIRCULAR.

No. 19.

 

Colonial Secretary’s Office, Barbados.

14th September 1917.

 

Madam,

I am directed by the Governor to inform you that the Defence Committee will require transport facilities for the Defence Force in case of enemy attack. On the “Alarm” being sounded you are requested to send your motor car No. M158 to [illegible] where it will be available for use in accordance with order issued by the officers of the Force.

2. A driver, and the necessary supply of Petrol, spare tyres, etc. should be available with the car.

3. The Government undertake to recommend to the Legislature that compensation be paid for damage caused by enemy action.

4. The “alarm” consists of the firing of five rockets from the Harbour Police Station, and the firing of powder charges from two 9 pounder guns, at the Garrison and the Reef respectively.

5. The Defence Committee’s recommendations are based on the assumption that you will readily co-operate with them in arranging transport facilities in case of attack. His Excellency has therefore asked me to obtain from you a statement to the effect that you have made arrangement of a kind to ensure prompt dispatch of the car whenever the “Alarm” is sounded.

I have the honor to be,

Madam,

Your most obedient servant,

T.E. Fell,

Colonial Secretary.

 

Sept 14.

Ditto.

"Toppin. Five minutes before the arrival of the Gubernatorial Party."

 

Sept 15

The Probyns came to see the house.

 

Sept 16.

Mr & Mrs [illegible] to see house.

I dined at the Laurie Piles.

 

Sept 17.

Auction inspection.

I dined at the Harold Whytes’ - a most amusing evening. Harold Whyte & Laddy & Mr Fell played an uproarious game of bridge in which they were respectfully alluded to as the army, the vestry, and the government & every now and then a large land crab would come in & sport about the floor. I took Mr Fell & Colonel Humphreys home & my car began to wheeze just after that & I found that it was in for a long illness this time.

 

Sept 18.

Mrs [illegible] came & fetched up & took me back to Brittons for bitters.

 

Sept 19.

Hired a car & took Mrs. Carpenter to an auction in the country. We had a picnic lunch. Great fun.

 

Sept 27.

Mrs Humphreys & Doreen to tea. Rained heavily & we had no where to go but in & then it was only a courtyard.

I dined with the [illegible]. Jolly evening.

 

Sept 28.

Busy on the house.

Laddy telephoned.

 

 

Sept 29.

[illegible]. Laddy had a picnic & took me to Bleak House. Had [illegible] drove Mrs Carpenter. We had bitters & sandwiches & a great time.

 

Sept 30.

Laddie drove me out to the Charlie Haynes’. After dinner we worked all of us on the [illegible]. We saw Lady [illegible] toes out of the window!

 

* * *

As always, if you are interested in viewing the diary or letters yourself, in our library, or have other questions about the collection please visit the library or contact a member of the library staff for further assistance.

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 29 September, 2017, 12:00 AM

Who is J. Gibbs?

The Massachusetts Historical Society recently received a donation of William Gray Brooks family papers, primarily correspondence on genealogical subjects. It’s a terrific collection of letters from some of the leading lights of the 19th century, including Charles Francis Adams, Edward Everett, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Eliza Susan Quincy, and many others. This new acquisition complements other MHS collections related to Brooks and his family.

I was intrigued, however, by additional material that came to us as part of the collection, namely 22 issues of a family “newspaper” called “The One Hoss Shay.” The newspapers were handwritten by J. Gibbs of Brookline, Mass. and reproduced on a hectograph.

 

“The One Hoss Shay” contains light-hearted poems, stories, illustrations, jokes, announcements, reviews, etc., written by Gibbs and others, and it makes for some very fun reading. Here’s one of the better limericks:

There was a young man of Bombay

Excessively fond of croquet,

But when he got beat,

He would beat a retreat

And show himself no more that day.

 

Sandwiched between articles are editorial asides by Gibbs.

We wish to apologise for the condition of our hectograph, which absolutely refuses to print well. We are not responsible for it’s [sic] freaks.

If the “Shay” should chance to seem too local for general interest, we call attention to the fact that the more we heard from elsewhere, the more foreign news could be introduced. (Hint.)

 

Who was the mysterious J. Gibbs of Brookline? Unfortunately, the “Shay” provides very few clues. She was a “Miss,” and I eventually found her first name: Julia. The newspapers were written between 1886-1888, which probably meant she was born in the 1860s or early 1870s. Her family apparently summered in Marion, Mass. These were the only biographical details I could find or infer.

I guessed that because the newspapers accompanied the Brooks letters, and because some Brooks family members are mentioned in Julia’s articles, she may have been a relative. It was easy enough to find Brooks genealogies, given how famous the family is. (William Gray Brooks’ son Phillips, for example, was one of Boston’s most renowned clergymen.) But there was no sign of a Gibbs among William’s siblings or cousins or their children or grandchildren.

I went back to the collection for more information and noticed a reference to “Harriette Brooks Hawkins (Mrs. Hubert A.) […] (a granddaughter of W.G.B.).” Born in 1881, Harriette was the daughter of William’s youngest son John Cotton Brooks and his wife Harriette Hall (Lovett) Brooks. She owned the Brooks letters in 1935, but had she also owned the newspapers? Did she have a connection to Julia Gibbs?

Armed with a few more keywords, I took one last crack at an online search for Julia and finally found her: Julia de Wolf Gibbs (1866-1952), later Mrs. Addison. The name was right, the age was right, and the location was right—she is buried in Marion, Mass. So what was her connection to Harriette and/or William Gray Brooks? I got my answer when I identified her parents: Julia’s mother was Anne (or Anna) de Wolf (Lovett) Gibbs. Her mother and Harriette’s mother were sisters.

Out of curiosity, I searched our catalog for Julia and was excited to learn that she later became not only a published author

 

But also a designer of metalwork, ornamentation, etc. Some photographs of her work appear in one of our collections.

 

“The One Hoss Shay” was the brainchild of a creative young woman at the start of her career. Julia apparently took the title of her newspaper from Oliver Wendell Holmes’ 1858 poem “The Deacon’s Masterpiece, or the Wonderful ‘One-Hoss Shay’: A Logical Story.” In her third issue, she wrote that she and her aunt Harriette attended Holmes’ recitation of the poem at Harvard’s Sanders Theatre. This was her one-line review: “Our Patron Poet was quite at his best.”

(Incidentally, Julia’s future husband also earned a passing mention in one issue: “Rev. Daniel Dulany Addison is in Washington.”)

I’d be remiss if I didn’t say more about the newspaper’s impressive illustrations. Some were drawn by Julia herself, such as the seated girl on the right side of the first image above. Others were contributed by another of her cousins, “our popular artist, Mr. C. Dana Gibson.” If that name sounds familiar to you, it’s because Charles Dana Gibson went on to become one of the most popular illustrators in America and creator of the iconic turn-of-the-century Gibson Girl. He designed the letterhead for the “Shay” and provided drawings like this one:

Scene, a crowded horse-car. (Stout old man.) "Come, sonny, get up & give the lady your seat." (Small Boy.) "Get up yourself, & give her two!"


For more about Gibson, I recommend the 1936 biography Portrait of an Era, which contains hundreds of his beautiful illustrations.

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Wednesday, 20 September, 2017, 12:00 AM

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