Friday, July 19, 2013

Another woman to research curtsey of the Mowry clan: Ann Caroline Holmes

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I recently came across the obituary of Ann Caroline Holmes (nee Mowry) & her husband Henry Holmes. The Holmes' were involved in both Abolition & Temperance & were founding members of the Free Church which used to sit on Main St, across from the Rough & Ready Firehouse. Cool, right? But, she was also a nurse during the Civil War. The following is a quote from the obituary

In 1864, moved by her country's needs and the sufferings of its sick and wounded defenders, she hastened, in company with Miss Prudence Fitch of Battenville and Miss Phebe Bernard, now Mrs. F. A. Gale of this village, to the hospital at Frederick City, Maryland, where she served for three moths as head nurse, with her companions and assistants. Here her business, energy and experience in the care of the sick, and her cheerful disposition were of greater value and the soldiers, turning to look after her as she passed along, said her presence was a ray of sunshine and called her "Mother."^

 I got excited yesterday when I located her on page 85 of the book Emma Willard and Her Pupils: Or, Fifty Years of Troy Female Seminary, 1822-1872 on Internet Archive. How unsatisfying that it neither mentioned her service during the Civil War, nor her aid in the fight for Abolition & Temperance. It simply mentioned who her parents were: William & Lydia (nee Whipple) Mowry, who her husband was & how many kids they had. So disappointing.

The unusual bit in the obituary was regarding her physical description. Apparently she resembled her so much that she was mistaken for Elizabeth Cady Stanton!

Elizabeth Cady Stanton- suffragist*

*image from Accessible Archives
^People's Journal. February 11, 1875

Friday, July 12, 2013

Another sister for Chester: Almeda Arthur Masten

A couple of months ago I came across a bit of information that interested me. When I decided I wanted to blog about it, I realized that I had no idea where I found the tidbit. That meant I had to re-trace my cyber steps.

I quickly found a copy of the Spindle City Historic Society newsletter  from 2009. The parenthetical statement read "Masten was married to Almeda Arthur, the sister of Chester A. Arthur, the 21st president." The article in question is a quick 2 paragraph history of Cohoes Music Hall founded by James H. Masten (husband of Almeda) & William Acheson. A quick catalog search at my new job (Rensselaer Public Library) revealed a dissertation about the music hall from 2008 & a history of Cohoes by an Arthur H. Masten, both available at the Albany Public Library. I will be visiting the local history section there in the coming weeks to see if there is any information on Almeda lurking in the pages. (I'll keep an eye out for anything to do with Mary & her anti-suffrage group as well.)

Now what about the author? The one who wrote a history of Cohoes? Arthur H. Masten is the son of Almeda & James. He was a lawyer & local historian who wrote a few books. Aside from the a fore mentioned volume, Arthur also penned The Tahaws Club: 1898-1933 (1935) & The Story of the Adirondac (1923). His papers regarding these publications are in the collection of the library at the Adirondack Museum. Upon looking at the finding aid for the younger Masten's papers on the NY State archives website, there doesn't appear to be much in the way of personal documents. However, it may be a worth a trip to Blue Mountain Lake. I'll have to give them a call.

Another trip I should make is to Albany Rural Cemetery where Chester, & his wife Ellen are buried along with, you guessed it, Almeda & James Masten, as well as, Mary & James McElroy.

James H. and Almeda Arthur Masten grave stones*

As is the case with researching 19th century women (& many other time periods), primary source material can be hard to come by. Women rarely left behind evidence of business transactions unless they were widowed. Often times women are referred to by their married name in official records. In Almeda's case that would be Mrs. James H. Masten. Luckily I know her husbands name & I should be able to find her, should she be listed in a record.

I am hoping through finding records on her husband & son that it will enable me to find out more about her & the life she lived.

*Photo taken by Don & posted on Find a Grave. To view the original:

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

For the Love of History: A Reluctant Historian

As I was boxing up office supplies, books, artifacts, & records today, with the help of my mom, I started thinking about why I became an historian. It wasn't some "higher calling." I hadn't fantasized about it when I was a kid. I kind of fell into it. It took my by surprise, hence why I consider myself a reluctant historian.

Boxing up and moving

I always wanted to be a "rock star," well a singer, at least. I would dance & sing around the side yard, which I can see from the picture window as I write this. I pretended I was on Kids Incorporated, where I was in love with Ryan (Lambert). Martika & Mario Lopez were my other 2 favorites, even though Mario was only a dancer. I sang songs by Wham!, Taylor Dayne, Paula Abdul... I was very upset when the show went from Saturday mornings on NBC, to the Disney Channel in 1986. Even though the village of Greenwich got cable in 1981, my house could not get cable until 2013 (Yes, this year folks).

I started ACC as a voice major & had a great time. I learned a lot & made some great friends, many of whom I am still friends with today. When it came time to transfer to a 4 year school, I also had to pick a major, as I had convinced myself that voice was no longer an option. I chose history, because I could study music history, art history, women's history... Everything has a history!

One of my classes at SUNY New Paltz was called Hudson Valley Culture. It was basically a local history class centered around the lower Hudson Valley. It was the 1st time I really learned about a very specific region & I loved it. Then my parents came down for a visit & we went to Samuel F.B. Morse's home, Locust Grove. Taking that tour & walking those grounds solidified my love of history & old houses & the people who lived in those houses.

After I graduated with a BA in History, everyone asked what I was going to do with my degree. "Teach?" was the usual. I never wanted to be a teacher, I wanted to work in a museum. Well, tour guides & curators are teachers. So, the joke was on me. I taught, I mean worked, in a bunch of different museums, but I tried to stay true to my original interested. I spoke about women, music, art. I learned about architecture & furniture styles. I loved the houses & miss them like old friends I don't see very often.

Many people, when asked what their favorite time of work is, would say quitting time. When I worked in a house museum, my favorite time was the morning, unlocking the doors, turning off the alarm, walking through the rooms opening blinds, shutters & curtains. Walking up the stairs to the bedrooms, where everyone would have been getting ready for the day. The dust motes dancing in the sunshine. The promise of interested visitors.

I felt some of that today as I began moving from my old office on the main floor, to my new office upstairs. The Town Office building used to house the Washington County Home for Aged Women & walking through those rooms that house board rooms, a food pantry & the clothes closet, I could still imagine the women in their rooms. I wonder how many women stayed in my new office over the years?

I still sing when I can, weddings & funerals. I torment my daughter by singing along with her One Direction CDs when we drive in the car together. & I am developing a program involving music & the suffrage movement. I hope to sing it for you someday.

I apologize if this is not what you have come to expect for my blog. One thing I like about them is that, no matter the subject, blogs are personal. It's like journaling to a specific audience, that you hope is listening.