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Archive for the ‘Emily Dickinson’ Category

Come and play with us…forever…and ever…and ever…

First, the obvious: archives tend to contain papers about adults.  Because that fact is a given, we may not stop to wonder about it.  It really couldn’t be otherwise, since children don’t tend to create and accumulate “papers,” except maybe the kind that get taped to the front of refrigerators, then maybe stashed in a drawer and eventually, regretfully, thrown out.  There are certainly collections here or there whose main subjects are children, but those are few by comparison to those in which the focus is on adults.

But children appear in collections anyway, most particularly in family papers.  As I’ve been processing the Bowles-Hoar Family Papers, I’ve noticed a lot of material related to children, most of it from members of families in the collection, a little of it from close friends or just acquaintances.  In this post, we’ll look at some of these children, including children who appear without names or other clear ways to identify them.  Apart from public records (birth, death, census, etc., where you’d need at least a name), some of these children may have no documentation other than what’s here, and our small, unique patch of record is all there is for “proof of life.”

The first child to catch my attention (and haunt me during evenings and weekends) was little Mary Bowles Foote. Ironically (from the archival point of view), Mary herself has no documentation in the collection, no doubt because her death as a toddler meant that she didn’t leave anything behind. I only know about Mary because I started to chart the families represented in the collection and stumbled across her existence while focused on her mother, Julia.

As I pieced Mary’s story together, the significance of her short life and early death became clear. I learned that Mary was the granddaughter of Samuel Bowles II, the founder of the “Springfield Republican” newspaper, and the daughter of his eldest child, Julia. Julia appears once in George Merriam’s biography of her brother (the most famous Sam Bowles) in Merriam’s description of her parents’ trip with their infant daughter “up the river in a flat-boat…bringing a hand-printing press and some scanty furnishings” from Hartford to Springfield, where her father started his paper in September 1824. Little more is known about Julia other than that she attended Springfield’s “Old High School” and subsequently married a fellow student named Adonijah Foote (sometimes Foot), whose family was related to Julia’s sister-in-law Mary Bowles. Foote studied to be an engineer, and his first jobs included work on the Connecticut River railroad and the Holyoke canals.  Adonijah and Julia then moved to New Jersey, where he probably worked on the Central Railroad of New Jersey, which was still under construction at that time. Their baby daughter Mary went with them, something we only know because of an announcement in the “Republican” of her death from dysentery in New Jersey on August 17, 1851.  New Jersey newspapers show that the incidence of deaths from dysentery in the region had doubled in the month of Mary’s death, and the toddler probably died within two weeks of the first signs of illness. Julia then returned to Springfield with the body so that it might be buried in the relatively new Springfield Cemetery.  During this time Julia also fell ill from dysentery. On August 29, she died too. By this time, her father had caught it, and less than two weeks later, on September 8, he died too. The family must’ve been stunned at this triple loss.  If they understood anything about contagious illnesses, they must’ve feared more consequences, since at this point the extended family — three generations — all lived together on Union Street in Springfield.  In this way, little Mary’s illness and death had rippling consequences for the family and their newspaper — not only were three family members dead within a month, but Samuel Bowles III was now the head of the newspaper much earlier than he would have anticipated.  The stresses on him were enormous.

I visited the Springfield Cemetery recently but found no marker for Mary. An old cemetery plan indicates that she was known in the family as Minnie and that she was buried next to her mother, whose small, flat marker was barely visible when I visited.

At left, a section of the Bowles plot plan. At right, Julia’s stone. It reads: “Julia Bowles Foot/ [Wife?] Adonijah Foot/ Aug. 29, 1851/ Aged 27 Yrs.” There may be additional text at the top that is too worn to read.

Another Mary– Mary Dwight Bowles, called Mamie — provides a lighter note. This Mary was the daughter of Samuel Bowles III and his wife Mary Schermerhorn.  Little Mary is the Bowles child Emily Dickinson referred to as “Minor ‘Mary’,” to whom she promised “a Butterfly with a vest like a Turk…”  Mary was born in 1854 and was the third of seven surviving Bowles children.   As you might expect, the older children helped out with the younger ones.  On the right side of this note from early 1862, Mary anticipates a few chores in connection with her newborn brother Charles Allen Bowles:

Three unidentified children — two girls who seem to be twins and a younger boy, presumably their brother — appear in a daguerreotype and a pair of ambrotypes. Over the course of my work on the Bowles-Hoar papers, I have yet to come across twins in either family. The only twins I know of that have some connection to the collection are twins Fanny and Annie Stebbins, born in 1855 and friends and next-door neighbors to the Bowles family on Crescent Hill, but I’m not sure their dates work, and the brother isn’t “right” either.  I keep all these names and images in mind in case something pops into place someday and I suddenly know for certain who they are. But whoever these children are, I love their little faces, especially the slightly furrowed brow on the girl at right. Is she concentrating on staying still or is she irritated at the photographer? She looks ferocious — I like to imagine she grew up to be a terror.

These same children appear in ambrotypes taken a year or two later.  In both images, you can see that the boy has a distinctive nose that could help identify him if he appears in other photographs.  Here, though, the girls remind me a bit of the Grady girls in “The Shining,” just because I’m programmed to associate “twin girls” with those famous characters.  Maybe the boy’s name will turn out to be Danny.

“Hello, Danny.”

“Come and play with us, Danny.” The spectral Grady girls from “The Shining.” In the novel by Stephen King the girls were not twins.

Beth Hoar Bowles appears as a child in several images. Beth is the main collector of the Bowles-Hoar papers, the first person who inherited, gathered, and preserved the materials from both the Bowles and Hoar families. She’s very well documented in the collection from her birth in 1854 to her death in 1924.  Here she is as a young child in striped socks.  As the person who would inherit the responsibility for all the family papers, she looks appropriately sober.

Beth’s sons also figure prominently in the papers. Her older son, Samuel Bowles V, was a rather tragic figure who struggled from an early age against his inherited obligation to run the “Springfield Republican,” and her younger son, Sherman, distanced himself from the paper for a while but ultimately became a major figure in the company and — even better, in my view — the temporary publisher of “Cat-Man Comics.”  Here are the boys at about the age of their mother, above.  Poor little Sam already feels the pressure of living up to expectations:

“Samuel in Mama’s bonnet and boa” (circa 1888) and Sherman (1892).

 

Beth Bowles was an active figure in her community and, judging by what survived, she must’ve conducted an enormous correspondence. Among the correspondence she saved — most of it from family and close friends — there is a single sheet from a boy named Fayette Corey. At the bottom of the sheet, Beth has added an explanatory note.

“My dear Mrs. Bowles, I like my pencils and I am using them. Thank you for bringing them. Sincerely yours, Fayette Corey, 1180 Riverdale St.” Beth has added, “Small boy, run over by hay cart, I met at the hospital, July 1911.”

Beth’s added note is confirmed by newspaper evidence. That Beth kept Fayette’s note and handed it down among her papers shows us how much his situation moved her. Fayette probably didn’t leave much of a paper trail since he didn’t live long enough to create one — an obituary from the summer of 1919 shows that he died of enteritis at 13. So his single note above might be all there is.

To conclude on a happier note, we have Beth’s nephew Roger Sherman Hoar, the son of her brother Sherman and his wife Mary Butterick Hoar.  Roger looks like he was an eager child, straining to get out of his carriage and take on the world.

Roger Sherman Hoar in 1888.

In addition to letters to Beth from an adult Roger (who became Attorney General of Massachusetts and a science fiction writer), the papers contain two entertaining notes from young Roger. The first note entreats–and threatens–Roger’s Aunt Carrie (Beth’s sister, nicknamed Pussy) for his chocolates.

“I WILL B A GOOD BOY IF YOU GIVE ME MY CHOCOLATES. I WILL ONLY B GOOD IF YOU GIVE THEM TO ME. PUSSY. ROGER.”

The second note is to his cousin Samuel (Beth’s boy, above), reporting the birth of calves in the neighboring Prichard’s barn in Concord. I love this boy. Can’t you just feel his excitement? He has no need of mere exclamation points to show his enthusiasm, he has BLOCK LETTERS.

There are many more children, identified and unidentified, in the Bowles-Hoar Family Papers, each one with a story of their own. The papers should be fully processed sometime next year. Come and play with us. Meet the children.

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A pounce of cats.  A crash of rhinos.  A gaze of raccoons. A prudence of vicars.  A strength of Snells.

Whenever I think of the Snell family of Western Massachusetts, I think of collective nouns, especially the entertaining “terms of venery.” The Snells are such a distinct unit that they seem to demand their own term.  There are a lot of them, so there are many lives to follow and stories to be told.  And they’re tight-knit.  Something —  maybe it’s from those early days as a big family in North Brookfield – bound them together, even when some of them ended up on the other side of the country.  So there’s a strength to them as a group, and that suggests their term, a “strength of Snells.” It’s not as colorful as “a murder of crows,” but it certainly describes the Snells.

The Snells are of particular interest to us because of their links to Amherst College.  If you’re even a little familiar with Amherst’s early history, you’re likely to have heard of Professor Ebenezer Strong Snell (1801-1876), known to his family as Strong.  Strong was about 14 when his father, Reverend Thomas Snell, a trustee of Williams College, was meeting with other trustees to discuss whether Williams should move to Hampshire County, and Strong was a student at Williams College during the September 1818 “Convention of the Congregational and Presbyterian Clergy,” when his father participated in discussions about an institution of higher learning in Amherst.  To make a long, complicated story short, a new college was finally formed in Amherst and Reverend Snell’s old friend President Zephaniah Swift Moore of Williams was chosen to lead it.  Shortly thereafter, in September 1821, Strong Snell and a small group of students accompanied Moore from Williams College to Amherst to open the new institution.

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Morgan Library in “Ballou’s,” 1855

In early 2017 I posted about 25 individual daguerreotypes from the Amherst College Class of 1850 that are part of the Archives and Special Collections. I provided new glass for each daguerreotype, reassembled each unit, and attempted to identify the members of the class. The daguerreotypes were in envelopes, having been removed in the 1980s from a grouping in an old wooden frame, which was apparently discarded. With only two exceptions – Austin Dickinson and George Gould – there were no names attached to the daguerreotypes from a class well known to Emily Dickinson, who often mentioned Austin’s classmates in her letters.  The identifications I proposed in the 2017 post were based in particular on things like a visible fraternity pin in a daguerreotype that could be compared against a list of known fraternity members, or later images of the students that could be compared with their youthful ones. In this way, it was possible to identify everyone at least tentatively. And there the matter rested.

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Three apples from “Apples of New York,” by Spencer Ambrose Beach.

The Northeast Organic Farming Association summer conference takes place this weekend at Hampshire College.  One of the first seminars was “The Full Skinny on Healthy Orcharding” with Michael Phillips from Lost Nation Farm in New Hampshire.  Yours truly was there, learning about fungal duff management and other good things. (more…)

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birds come back

The art handlers just delivered this crate filled with Emily Dickinson manuscripts and books and ephemera. ED Crate

This crate is filled with several smaller boxes, all wrapped in plastic and safe in their particle board and Styrofoam chambers. After the years of work that went into mounting the Emily Dickinson exhibition at the Morgan Library in New York, it will take me just a couple of hours to unpack and restore each item to its Amherst home.

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I’ve known her — from an ample nation —
Choose One —
Then — close the Valves of her attention —
Like Stone —

I have heeded beautiful tempters…*

All 25 graduates of the Class of 1850, in no particular order.

Open the valves of your attention and heed the beautiful tempters of the Class of 1850, William Austin Dickinson’s class. These students were all known to the Dickinsons, some better than others, some mentioned in Emily Dickinson’s surviving correspondence, some not.  The class had 25 graduating members,** and there are daguerreotypes for all of them in the Archives and Special Collections.  Unfortunately, most of them are unidentified.  Even worse, the class members graduated into a world of extreme facial hair, so in trying to put names to the 22 unidentified daguerreotypes one must attempt to match a smooth-shaven 22-year-old with a hirsute 75-year-old who left off shaving upon leaving Amherst and never picked it up again.  Believe me, it hurts:

Daniel Worcester Faunce at his 50th Reunion.

Even so, we know or have good guesses for many of the graduates, in particular those who wear a fraternity pin in their daguerreotype. For example, there were four students known to be in Alpha Delta Phi, Austin’s fraternity. Three of them had been identified earlier, but the fourth remained unidentified until the daguerreotypes were conserved and their details became clear and allowed us to see the fourth student wearing the Alpha Delta Phi pin. By elimination, then, this would be John Howland Thompson, Austin’s roommate in their sophomore and junior years.

Delta Upsilon had three members, Albert Beebe, John Cory, and Daniel Faunce. Beebe had a photograph taken when he became a missionary about five years later, so there’s something to compare against the daguerreotypes showing the Delta Upsilon pin. Faunce had three photographs online, and even though they showed him quite a bit older, they were helpful. Once again, we identified a potential Cory daguerreotype by the third pin.

When all the daguerreotypes were sorted by fraternity pins – or by no pin at all – and sorted against all the identified photographs of class members we found online, we were left with a small group of No Hopers.  For this handful, we couldn’t even guess their identities within two possibilities, the way we could with (for example) the five members of Delta Kappa Epsilon, three of whom were comfortably identified (Avery, Garrette, and Newton) with two that had to be one person or the other (Hodge or Nickerson). Even if we had tentative identification for the No Hopers, it wasn’t comfortable. Three of the five remaining are Augustine Milton Gay, Sylvester John Sawyer, and Thomas Morrill Stimpson.  They may be these three men — but which is which?

Another man we couldn’t identify is the Seed King, James J.H. Gregory. Yes, the charitable, ahead-of-his-time Seed King belongs to Amherst, which suggests that we may have missed the opportunity for a cruciferous mascot.  Although there are three older photographs of Gregory online, he still proved difficult to identify and we remain of mixed opinion about which student he might be.  Unfortunately for our purposes, he doesn’t seem to have belonged to a fraternity, so there was no help available that way either.  If we can agree on a match in the future, he should have his own blog post.

One student identified in a half-proven, half-hopeful way is Henry Shipley, apparently the bad-boy of the class. Shipley spent 1846-47 at Harvard studying medicine (he appears in a catalogue) before he transferred to Amherst in early May of 1847, when he shared a room with Martin Root ’49 in North College (“Shipley is my chum,” wrote Root in his diary).  While at Amherst, Shipley was an editor of the student paper the Indicator, which published Emily Dickinson’s valentine in February, 1850. Shipley commented on the valentine coyly, suggesting that he didn’t know the author when–even if Carlo the dog was the only tip-off–he probably knew perfectly well who it was.  After Dickinson signs off with “C.,” Shipley answers the valentine in the same romping style.

Shipley proves to be quite a character.  William Gardiner Hammond’s “Remembrance of Amherst, 1846-48” describes Shipley and another student sliding into campus drunk after a sleigh ride to and from Northampton:

It would appear from this account that Shipley’s nickname was “Chicken,” and I wish I knew why but I don’t. Now, you know the administration must’ve heard about Chicken’s caper, and sure enough, the Early Presidents Collection contains Henry Shipley’s required “confession,” a document unexamined until now:

Here’s what the letter says:

To the Faculty of Amherst Col.

Gentlemen

In addressing you upon a subject which has weighed heavily upon my mind I shall not attempt any palliation of the fault[.] But wish to express to you as a body, the sincere regret I feel in having thus wounded your feelings by committing such an open violation of your laws.

I know that I have disgraced myself. I feel it deeply. And that alone will I think deter me from the commission of a like offence. But the gratitude, which I owe you for your undeserved clemency in this affair is even a stronger barrier[,] and must not be expressed by me in words, but I shall endeavor to let my actions speak [“for” scratched out] That I may not abuse but repay your kindness is the heartfelt wish of your much obliged & humble sevt’,

H Shipley

Amherst Col’ Feb 29th 1848

The faculty minutes record the request for his confession and the result:

March 1st…A confession from Shipley was read, upon which Voted — that it be accepted.

Shipley got off rather lightly: he wasn’t expelled and his confession seems to have been the end of the matter.  However, John Thornton Wood, his partner in crime, was escorted off the property — the faculty minutes record that “Profs Warner & Snell be a com. [committee] to see that he leaves town tomorrow” — and sent home. The minutes are full of notes detailing which faculty member was assigned to write to the fathers of other students to describe their “deficiencies,” “deliquencies,” and “misdemeanors,” and often to take them home. It may be that Shipley’s talents kept him from being dismissed – Hammond mentions Shipley several times and describes him as “a first-prize man,” and Dickinson biographer Al Habegger pegs him as “a gifted reprobate,” identifying Shipley as the student whom Professor Tyler described as “one of the most hardened & hopeless & at the same time one of the most talented men of the Senior Class.” (Wars, p 237.)

Of course, despite the religious nature of the early college, drinking had always been at least an occasional problem. In “the Seed and the Sowers,” F. Curtis Canfield writes of the fall of 1821, shortly after Zephaniah Swift Moore had arrived in Amherst on a cropped-tail horse to take on the presidency of the new college, when “an [Amherst] Academy pupil, one Charles Jenks, had invited certain college students [including a young Edward Dickinson]***…to his rooms after nine o’clock for an oyster supper and ‘that after supper they had cherry rum and gin, that they drank to excess, and that about twelve o’clock they all of them came to the institution and behaved in a very indecent and riotous manner and made great disturbance until one o’clock or later.’ Which goes to show that the authorities couldn’t be too sure, always, that Old Scratch had been driven off Mt. Zion. ‘Segars’ and cherry rum and oyster suppers were a mighty potent combination – the road to infamy and ruin was paved with them.” (Seed, p. 19.)

Shipley seems to have remained on the straight and narrow enough to graduate, even though in his final months at Amherst he managed to insert a story in the Indicator that quotes Swift on the subject of inebriation — it was as if he couldn’t resist poking a finger in the eyes of the administrators who would read the piece:


“To be continued,” indeed.  Shipley’s subsequent career sounds suitably adventurous.  Initially, he returned to Harvard and briefly studied law (he appears in a catalogue for 1850-51), then he is said in later accounts to have been a druggist in Kentucky (presumably using what he learned at Harvard before he went to Amherst).  Then he headed west and worked as an editor on several newspapers in California and Oregon.  In 1854 we find him as the editor of “the Grass Valley Telegraph,” the newspaper for a gold mining town in Nevada County, California.  It was at this post where he met dancer-actress-adventuress Lola Montez, who, in a respite from her career, also took up residence in Grass Valley.  In November 1854 Lola and Henry Shipley had at least two documented encounters: in the first, she pulled a gun on him, and shortly thereafter she took a horsewhip to him.  The story was recounted in several newspapers — his account and her account were repeated enough to reach Amherst and the eyes and ears of the Dickinsons.  They both left Grass Valley in 1855.   Shipley’s old acquaintances would have heard of him again in November 1859, when he committed suicide almost a year after he fell off a horse, sustained severe injuries, and suffered from depression.  Montez’s earlier taunt, reframed from one Shipley had thrown at her, seemed apt — “Sic transit gloria Shipley.”  To recap his career, then:

In attempting to identify Shipley among our daguerreotypes, we must go by a fraternity pin, the number of students attached to a given fraternity, and one source that refers to him as a blonde. And then there is that flamboyant personality.  All these things lead me to hope with all my heart that the following image is Shipley because no other daguerreotype suits his biography so well.  Note his rings, his manicured fingers, his fancy, patterned neckcloth, and the fraternity pin, gilded by the photographer no doubt at the sitter’s request since no other daguerreotype in this group has this detail.   Is he not a beautiful tempter?

************************************************************

 

* Quotations above from Emily Dickinson, excerpts from Johnson Poem 303 and Letter 35 (April 3, 1850).

**The graduating members of the Class of 1850 are: William Fisher Avery, Albert Graham Beebe, Henry Walker Bishop, John Edwin Cory, Minott Sherman Crosby, William Austin Dickinson, John Graeme Ellery, Daniel Worcester Faunce, Thomas Legare Fenn, Edmund Young Garrette, Augustine Milton Gay, Archibald Falconer Gilbert, George Henry Gould, James John Howard Gregory, Leicester Porter Hodge, George Howland, Jacob Merrill Manning, Jeremiah Lemuel Newton, Joseph Nickerson, David Temple Packard, Sylvester John Sawyer, Henry Shipley, Thomas Morrill Stimpson, John Howland Thompson, and Lyman Richards Williston.

***Polly Longsworth reminds me that Edward Dickinson was among the cherry-rum drinkers in this affair and that his friend Osmyn Baker alludes to it in a letter to Dickinson from this period (the letter is at Harvard’s Houghton Library) .

 

For the follow-up to this post, see “Sacrifice Your Darlings.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Following the lamentable events in the town of Amherst last night, and as the community awaits an estimate of the damages and the full list of casualties, we felt that it would be appropriate to take a look back at the history of Emily Dickinson related violence in Amherst.

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