Holiday Gift Guide – Gifts for History Buffs


Here’s a few gift ideas for your favorite history buff to read, watch, wear, and listen to!

  1. These Edgar Allan Poe socks are comfy and weird – may your feet be cold nevermore!
  2. The Trial of Lizzie Borden is a new fascinating look at the murder trial of Lizzie Borden, who took an ax…
  3. For a fantastic binge-watch, you should absolutely check out the DVD box set of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries Series 1-3 which is a hilarious and fun show featuring the glamourous private detective Miss Phryne Fisher and her escapades across 1920s Australia.
  4. This book The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective was recently made into an ITV series, so check out the original book of the undoing of early Scotland Yard detective Jonathan Whicher as he investigates the murder of a young boy from a wealthy British family.
  5. With so many great history podcasts being produced, give a Spotify gift card for all your podcast listening needs!
  6. The lives and philosophical, feminist, horror, and gothic writings of mother and daughter authors Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley are given a fantastic deep dive in Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft & Mary Shelley
  7.   Hamilton: The Revolution provides tons of insightful behind-the-scenes details about the creation of the brilliant musical Hamilton.
  8.  Flex your love of history with this long-sleeve History Buff t-shirt!
  9. Kate Beaton’s hilarious historical comics are compiled in the awesome collection Hark! A Vagrant
  10. Start the new year off right with a look back at all the Bad Days in History: A Gleefully Grim Chronicle of Misfortune, Mayhem, and Misery for Every Day of the Year.

And stay tuned for more gift ideas for all the history lovers in your life this holiday season!

Holiday Gift Guide – Gifts for Family Archivists


The family archivist has gathered a collection of photographs, documents, and artifacts that tell the fascinating tale of your family’s past – here’s some gift ideas to help get all of those treasures organized!

  1. Treat your heirloom ornaments to a special upgrade this season and invest in an archival quality storage box to safeguard your holiday ornaments to pass down to future generations. Lineco Archival Divided Ornament Storage Box
  2. Denise May Levenick’s excellent How to Archive Family Keepsakes: Learn How to Preserve Family Photos, Memorabilia and Genealogy Records is a great guide to how to organize those boxes of family keepsakes that have been waiting in a closet or basement as a future “to-do” project.
  3. Gaylord Archival My Family History Kit is a wonderful place to start organizing your valuable records.
  4.  Scrapbook lovers can use these great 12×12 photo sleeve sheet protectors, which are a great way to fit a lot of photographs in one album.
  5.  Create easy categories for your historic documents with Gaylord Archival Letter-Size File Folders These folders are acid-free, lignin-free, and passed the Photographic Activity Test.
  6. Your family records should ideally be kept in temperature-controlled indoor spaces. But if you don’t yet have the time to organize your papers and they are still sitting in a basement or attic, at the very least grab some weather-tight storage boxes to keep out bugs or water, like this 19 quart IRIS Weathertight Storage Box.
  7.  Savor’s Artwork and School Memories Keepsake Box is an elegant storage system for baby items or childhood school papers. The School Years Edition Keepsake Box has lots of customizable storage options for important childhood memories. The box comes with envelopes and vertical storage for document, plus drawers for small artifacts, with numerous illustrated labels. A great keepsake box!
  8. Have a really big photo project on the horizon? Investing in the incredible Epson FastFoto FF-680W photo printer allows you to autoscan hundreds or thousands of photograph, allowing for custom sizing and file naming to assist in your next digitization project.
  9. Once those photos have been scanned, check out this great source on how to organize and make sense of all your old photos with How to Archive Family Photos: A Step-by-Step Guide to Organize and Share Your Photos Digitally.
  10. Archivist Shirt – for the archivist in your life to let everyone know who puts the “special” in Special Collections!

And stay tuned for some awesome gift ideas for all the history lovers in your life this holiday season!

The Sturtevant Triple Murder: Part Two: News Spreads Like Wildfire

Sturtevant Murder


In 1856, a telegraph line was constructed along the Fall River Railroad track from Myrick’s Station in Berkley, Massachusetts to Boston, passing through Bridgewater.  [Kingman, History of North Bridgewater, p. 347] Following the discovery of the Sturtevant murders on Monday, February 16th, someone ran to the Bridgewater telegraph office and sent a telegraph far and wide to newspapers across the nation. On Tuesday morning,  February 17th, before any arrests had been made in the case,  newspapers in Vermont, New York, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Chicago, Nashville, Iowa, Michigan, Los Angeles, and more ran the horrific details of the “Triple Tragedy”.


Map showing lines of Old Colony Railroad (O.C.R.R.) and Fall River Railroad (F.R.R.R.) in 1846. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Here’s a sample of the telegraph, as reported in the St. Albans Daily Messenger in St. Albans, Vermont:


Horrible Tragedy in Massachusetts.


Boston, 17 [February].

Details of the triple tragedy at Halifax, Mass., show that on Monday morning, a shoemaker by the name of Lull, having occasion to visit a neighbor, stumbled upon the body of a maiden lady, about seventy years of age, lying on a cross path about thirty rods from the farm house of Thomas and Simeon Sturtevant, with whom she lived in the capacity of house keeper. She was lying face downward, and the back of her head had been crushed. In hastening on to inform the Sturtevants, the man found the body of Thomas Sturtevant stretched full length in the porch of the dwelling, cold in the embrace of death, with a lantern by his side. His face was most brutally mangled. In a bed-room was found the remains of Simeon Sturtevant. The walls and ceilings of the apartment were bespattered with blood. The weapon with which all the murders were committed was evidently a sled stake about four feet in length, as one was found blood-stained, near where the body of the woman was discovered. The village where the murder was committed is a thriving little hamlet, thirty miles distant from this city, and contains a population of less than 800. The brothers, Sturtevant, were the wealthiest citizens of that town and highly respected. The murder was evidently committed for money. There is no clue to the assassin.”


1874-02-17 St Albans Sturtevant Murder

St. Albans Daily Messenger (St. Albans, Vt.) 17 Feb. 1874, p. 3.

Telegraph lines enabled news of the terrible murders to spread thousands of miles across the country before police could even begin their investigation in earnest. And what would they discover upon their arrival?

Next Up: The Sturtevant Triple Murder: Part Three: “Horrors Truly Multiply”

Previously: The Sturtevant Triple Murder: A Ghastly Discovery


[Photograph of the “Halifax Tragedy House” by photographer J.H. Williams of South Scituate, Mass. courtesy Historic New England.]

Holiday Gift Guide – Gifts For Murderinos


Here are are a few ideas to give some spooky chills, cozy reading, and DNA investigation to the favorite true-crime afficiando in your life! Murderinos everywhere can curl up with the following gifts (but maybe keep the lights on…)

  1. A must-have for every Georgia and Karen fan. Their book Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered: The Definitive How-To Guide is a hilarious behind the scenes of their successful podcast, with fascinating autobiographical tales that are both funny and sobering.
  2. Pour your favorite beverage into this Stay Sexy Don’t Get Murdered Wine Tumbler.
  3. Journalist Michelle McNamara’s beautiful I’ll Be Gone In The Dark, about her hunt for the Golden State Killer details his horrific crimes across California. Publishing posthumously after her tragic death, the Golden State Killer was caught using groundbreaking genetic genealogy just two months after her book was released.
  4.  Discover some mysteries from your own past by taking a genetic genealogy test through Ancestry DNA, 23andMe, MyHeritage, or FamilyTreeDNA.
  5. Once you have have your DNA results, analyze them to their full potential with Blaine Bettinger’s The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy.
  6.  “Evidence” Pouch. A cute little pouch or purse to take your important evidence to lab, or a night on the town!
  7. Master Detective Toolkit. Great for kids or a silly game night.
  8.  Do One Thing Everyday That Scares You. A daily journal to challenge yourself!
  9. Unwind with a podcast or favorite novel in the tub with this awesome Organic Bath Bomb Gift Set.
  10. Folklorist Michael Bell has documented over 100 cases of a desperate folk medicine belief in early New England – exhuming the bodies of dead loved ones due to the superstitious suspicion that the dead were “vampirically” sapping the life force of surviving family members. Read the fascinating tale Food for the Dead: On the Trail of New England’s Vampires.


And stay tuned for some awesome gift ideas for all the history lovers in your life this holiday season!

The Sturtevant Triple Murder: Part One: A Ghastly Discovery

Sturtevant Murder

On a cold winter morning on Monday, February 16, 1874, 41 year old shoemaker Stephen P. Lull cut through a path behind the Sturtevant house on Thompson St. in Halifax, Plymouth County, Massachusetts when he noticed an unusual shape in the field behind the house. As he came closer, he was horrified to discover the body of his neighbor, 69 year old Mary Buckley, lying face down on the ground “with her head beaten to a pumice”.  The murder weapon, a four foot long piece of wood, was found later that day several feet away from Mary’s body. Lull hurried to the Sturtevant home to notify the two elderly Sturtevant brothers of their cousin Mary’s death. He was shocked as he entered the home to find the body of 74 year old Thomas Sturtevant on the porch with a lantern at his side, and the body of 70 year old Simeon Sturtevant dead in his bed. All three victims had been violently bashed in the head.

Neighbors quickly gathered at the Sturtevant house, and tended to the bodies while speculating who could have committed such a horrible crime. There was evidence that some money had been stolen from the house, but a number of valuable items remained in the home. The Sturtevant brothers were known to be wealthy and frugal and untrusting of banks, so robbery seemed the most likely motive to the crime. Telegraphs were quickly sent to local, county, and state officials who were called to arrive as quickly as possible. Telegraphs were also sent to newspaper offices around the United States notifying the nation of the horrific scene, and some papers printed the details faster than police actually arrived on site.


Horrible Tragedy at Halifax, Mass.- Two Men and One Woman Murdered- Story of the Triple Tragedy

A dispatch from Bridgewater states that at Halifax, Mass., a most terrible murder has been committed. The victims were two unmarried brothers, named Simeon and Thomas Sturtevant, and their housekeeper, named Mercy Buckley. The three victims lived in a solitary house, on a cross road, about a mile and a half from the Halifax school-house. The three were understood to be blessed with a good share of funds, which they kept in the house. They had lived in the house for many years, and although they had many friends among the neighbors, sometimes several days would pass without anyone visiting them. Yesterday, a neighbor by the name of Lull was passing in the rear of the dwelling of the Sturtevants, when some, forty rods from the house, in a field, he discovered the body of Miss Buckley, upon the ground, with her head beaten to a pumice. He at once gave the alarm, and proceeded to the house where she lived when he was shocked by a ghastly spectacle of the dead body of Thomas Sturtevant near the door as he entered. Upon still further search, it was found that Simeon, the other brother, was also lying lifeless upon his bed, with his head also bearing evidence of having been beaten with a club. The nearest neighbors were but twenty rods distant, but no clue at present has been reached as to who the authors of this shocking murder. Word was at once sent to the neighboring towns and to Plymouth, and no effort will be spared to bring to light the authors of this awful tragedy. It is not known that any considerable amount of money was in the possession of these unfortunate victims; still it is conjectured that the motive was robbery.


Boston Globe, 17 Feb. 1874, p. 1.


Next: News of the murders spread like wildfire


[Photograph of the “Halifax Tragedy House” by photographer J.H. Williams of South Scituate, Mass. courtesy Historic New England.]

“Colossal Coward!”: Plymouth Protests the Compromise of 1850: Part One

In early 1850, tensions between the North and South regarding the issue of slavery had brought many politicians and American citizens to seriously consider dividing the Union. Kentucky Senator Henry Clay presented a series of bills known as the Compromise of 1850 which offered compromises between the free North and slave-owning south regarding newly acquired territory from the Mexican-American War. South Carolinian senator John C. Calhoun, on his deathbed, dictated his final Senate speech, read aloud in the Senate on 4 March 1850, in which he blasted the North and emphasized that compromise was unlikely. Massachusetts Senator Daniel Webster, a beloved and famed orator, announced he would reply to Calhoun’s speech. Webster’s response was highly anticipated, with the expectation that Webster would remain steadfast with his previous abolitionist support. Large crowds gathered in Washington D.C., hoping to witness Webster’s eloquent response. His three-hour speech, which became widely known as the “Seventh of March Speech”, shocked listeners by calling for a compromise between the North and the South on the issue of slavery for the sake of preserving the Union. Webster registered his support for the Compromise of 1850, and he listed numerous criticisms of the North that he shared with Calhoun. News of Webster’s speech instantly spread through the telegram and was printed and discussed across America. Reactions were swift and furious by Northerners, who felt betrayed. Webster’s reputation would never recover.


Webster’s Seventh of March Speech. Image courtesy of

Webster argued that slavery was simply a fact of life in America:


“We must view things as they are. Slavery does exist in the United States.”

Webster noted a Southern complaint to be quite “just”: the reluctance of Northerners to capture and return fugitive slaves:

“In that respect, the South, in my judgment, is right, and the North is wrong. Every member of every Northern legislature is bound by oath, like every other officer in the country, to support the Constitution of the United States; and the article of the Constitution which says to these States that they shall deliver up fugitives from service is as binding in honor and conscience as any other article… That is my judgment. I have always entertained that opinion, and I entertain it now.”

Webster stated that he supported the Compromise of 1850 “to the fullest extent,” and called on:

“all sober-minded men at the North, of all conscientious men, of all men who are not carried away by some fanatical idea or some false impression, to their constitutional obligations. I put it to all the sober and sound minds at the North as a question of morals and a question of conscience. What right have they… to endeavor to get round this Constitution, or to embarass the free exercise of the rights secured by the Constitution to the persons whose slaves escape from them? None at all; none at all… when I speak here I desire to speak to the whole North, I say that the South has been injured in this respect, and has a right to complain; and the North has been too careless…”

Webster then attacked the abolitionists of the North:

“Then, Sir, there are the Abolition societies, of which I am unwilling to speak, but in regard to which I have very clear notions and opinions. I do not think them useful. I think their operations for the last twenty years have produced nothing good or valuable. At the same time, I believe thousands of their members to be honest and good men, perfectly well-meaning men. They have excited feelings; they think they must do something for the cause of liberty; and, in their sphere of action, they do not see what else they can do than to contribute to an Abolition press, or an Abolition society, or to pay an Abolition lecturer. I do not mean to impute gross motives even to the leaders of these societies, but I am not blind to the consequences of their proceedings. I cannot but see what mischiefs their interference with the South has produced.

Webster strangely even blamed abolitionists as the reason why Thomas Jefferson Randolph’s proposal for gradual emancipation in Virginia failed in 1832. Webster argued that “incendiary” abolitionist newspapers after 1835

“did arouse, a very strong feeling; in other words, they created great agitation in the North against Southern slavery. Well, what was the result? The bonds of the slave were bound more firmly than before, their rivets were more strongly fastened. Public opinion, which in Virginia had begun to be exhibited against slavery, and was opening out for the discussion of the question, drew back and shut itself up in its castle. I wish to know whether any body in Virginia can now talk openly as Mr. Randoph, Governor [James] McDowell, and others talked in 1832 and sent their remarks to the press? We all know the fact, and we all know the cause; and every thing that these agitating people have done has been, not to enlarge, but to restrain, not to set free, but to bind faster the slave population of the South.”

Webster preposterously argued the abolitionists were to blame for the South being unwilling to end slavery. He believed the abolitionists were too passionate in their moralistic beliefs and goals, and argued that the truest moral goal should be to preserve the Union at all costs.

I hear with distress and anguish the word “secession,” especially when it falls from the lips of those who are patriotic, and known to the country, and known all over the world, for their political services. Secession! Peaceable secession! Sir, your eyes and mine are never destined to see that miracle. The dismemberment of this vast country without convulsion! The breaking up of the fountains of the great deep without ruffing the surface! Who is so foolish, I beg every body’s pardon, as to expect to see any such thing?…There can be no such thing as peaceable secession. Peaceable secession is an utter impossibility… I will not state what might produce the disruption of the Union; but, Sir, I see as plainly as I see the sun in heaven what that disruption itself must produce; I see that it must produce war, and such a war as I will not describe…

Residents of Webster’s state of Massachusetts were astonished and confounded by Webster’s speech. Webster lived on a grand estate in Marshfield, Plymouth County, Massachusetts. Plymouth County residents still admired and discussed his “Plymouth Rock Oration”, given in 1820 on the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, in which he said:

I deem it my duty on this occasion to suggest, that the land is not yet wholly free from the contamination of a traffic, at which every feeling of humanity must for ever revolt, – I mean the African slave-trade. Neither public sentiment, nor the law, has hitherto been able entirely to put an end to this odious and abominable trade… In the sight of our law, the African slave-trader is a pirate and a felon; and in the sight of Heaven, an offender beyond the ordinary depth of human guilt. There is no brighter page of our history, than that which records the measures which have been adopted by the government at an early day, and at different times since, for the suppression of this traffic; and I would call on all the true sons of New England to cooperate with the laws of man, and the justice of Heaven. If there be, within the extent of our knowledge or influence, any participation in this traffic, let us pledge ourselves here, upon the rock of Plymouth, to extirpate and destroy it. It is not fit that the land of the Pilgrims should bear the shame longer. I hear the sound of the hammer, I see the smoke of the furnaces where manacles and fetters are still forged for human limbs. I see the visages of those who by stealth and at midnight labor in this work of hell, foul and dark, as may become the artificers of such instruments of misery and torture. Let that spot be purified, or let it cease to be of New England. Let it be purified, or let it be set aside from the Christian world; let it be put out of the circle of human sympathies and human regards, and let civilized man henceforth have no communion with it.

However, in the thirty years since Webster’s speech at Plymouth, he had shown himself to be a flip-flopper on numerous issues as a politician, particularly when it came to North-South issues. A poem called “Daniel Webster”, written in response to the Seventh of March Speech, read:

Colossal coward! Thou hast bowed the knee

This once, at least, too low at Slavery’s shrine;

No more thy country shall put trust in thee,

Or feel a heart-throb at a word of thine.

The Liberator (Boston, Mass.) 29 March 1850, p. 4.

Webster’s hypocrisy damned him in the eyes of many Northerners. His support of the Compromise of 1850, and especially the proposed expanded Fugitive Slave Act was a step too far. Plymouth County residents determined to take action, and called for a public protest.

The Liberator (Boston, Mass.) 29 March 1850, p. 3.

PLYMOUTH COUNTY MASS MEETING. To the Citizens of the County of Plymouth:

The cause of liberty is of no party or sect. Whenever that cause is betrayed or compromised, it becomes the imperative duty of its friends, especially in a great national crisis like the present, to rally to its defence. Believing that a serious injury has been inflicted upon that cause by the Hon. Daniel Webster of Massachusetts, in his recent speech in the United States Senate, and that the nature and gravity of the offence are such as to call for a PUBLIC PROTEST on the part of the people of this Commonwealth, in order that the Slave Power of the South may derive no encouragement from it; therefore, We, the undersigned, cordially unite, without distinction of party, and with no other object in view than the honor of Massachusetts and the welfare of the country, in calling a Convention of the people of Plymouth county, to be held in Plymouth on SATURDAY, the 30th day of March instant, to bear a strong and unequivocal testimony –

1st. Against the avowed determination of Mr. Webster to register his vote in opposition to the Wilmot Proviso, as applied to New Mexico and California, on the specious pretence that slavery is necessarily excluded from those territories by the law of God and the fiat of Nature;

2d. Against a similar determination, on his part, to ‘support to the fullest extent’, the bill introduced to the Senate by Mr. [James Murray] Mason of Virginia [the Fugitive Slave Act], whereby the liberty of persons, arrested as fugitive slaves, is to be made dependant on the decision of any ‘judge, commissioner, clerk, marshal, postmaster, or collector, as the case may be, either by oral testimony, or affadavit taken before and certified by any person authorized to administer an oath under the laws of the United States or of any State’;

and 3d. Against the declaration of Mr. Webster, that it is the duty of the States, acting through their legislatures and executive orders, to cause the fugitive slave to be delivered up to his claimant; thereby distinctly opposing and going beyond the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States.

And we do hereby invite the citizens of the county generally to assemble on the day aforesaid, at 11 o’clock, A.M., in the Green Church in Plymouth, then and there to take such action as the cause of human liberty and the honor of our Commonwealth shall require.

Incredibly, almost 150 Plymouth County residents of all political persuasions publically signed their names to this protest announcement, in the hopes of encouraging all citizens to join in the protest. They argued that while their political differences often caused disputes between them, the issue of slavery was so egregious that they would join together despite their differences to protest Webster’s support of the Compromise of 1850, which would expand slavery in the United States and force Northerners to capture fugitive slaves and fine and imprison those who refused.

Plymouth [22]. [First Church – Unitarian] Rev. George Ware Briggs (1810-1895). [Universalist] Rev. Russell Tomlinson (1808-1878). Charles May (1791-1880). Samuel Barnes (1803-1896). John Washburn (1801-1860). Justus Harlow (1811-1860). Thomas B. Sherman (1793-1861). Dr. John Cook Bennett (1804-1867). Charles Bartlett Irish (1800-1888). Edmund Robbins (1809-1884). Bartlett Ellis (1795-1883). William Harvey Spear (1805-1873). Isaac Brewster (1812-1894). Sylvanus Harvey (1812-1871). James Spooner (1802-1884). Micah Richmond (1803-1855). Samuel Sherman (1791-1857). Elisha Nelson (1802-1878). Samuel Gardner (1815-1862). Leander Lovell (1799-1879). Nathaniel M. Perry (1816-1877). Joab Thomas Jr. (1815-1896).

Kingston [19]. Seth Drew (1778-1854). [Baptist] Rev. Thomas E. Keely (1812-1880). Uriah Bartlett (1789-1883). Henry Soule (1808-1889). Henry Hunt (1804-1892). John Fuller (1774-1860 or 1801-1878). George Faunce (1816-1901). Alexander Bradford Foster (1814-1869). Francis Washburn (1802-1888). Cornelius Adams Bartlett (1811-1880). Job Washburn Drew (1811-1869). Joseph Stetson (1802-1884). Josiah Fuller (1783-1868). Nathan Brooks (1798-1882). Horace Holmes (1809-1855). Charles Everson (1821-1872). Nathaniel D. Drew (1810-1879). Ebenezer P. Richardson (1807-1892). Nathaniel Thomas Willis (1799-1872).

Duxbury [15]. Gershom Bradford Weston (1799-1869). Luther Faxon Weston (1820-1853). Henry Simmons (1811-1892). George Bradford (1819-1899). Ralph Partridge (1783-1869). Ezra Tainter (1803-1876). Allen Prior (1813-1890). Joshua G. Brewster. Weston Freeman Jr. (1808-1896). Nelson Stetson (1814-1890). Dura Wadsworth (1788-1881). Joshua Winsor Hathaway (1798-1882). George Loudon (1809-1900). John C. Lewis (1804-1885). Thomas N. Bartlett (1806-1888).

Marshfield [17]. Nathaniel H. Whiting (1808-1889). Lemuel Packard (1806-1875). Elijah Ames Jr. (1816-1899) Edward P. Little (1791-1875). Charles Winslow Thomas (1814-1900). Barker Sprague (1828-1917). Warren Hall (1813-1902). Benjamin Healy Clark Jr. (1806-1863). Harrison Sampson (1826-1908). John P. Bradley (1810-1897). George Martin Baker (1820-1911). Joseph Baker Jr. (1827-1880). John Baker (1815-1892 bur). James Sprague (1792-1881). Benjamin Baker (1803-1877). Warren Kent (1823-1891). Artemas Baker (1801-1889).

[South] Scituate [Norwell] [6]. [Unitarian] Rev. Caleb Stetson (1793-1870). David Torrey (1787-1877). George Parsons Fogg (1821-1901). Anson Robbins (1781-1866). George Howard Torrey (1819-1894). Abner Stetson (1808-1883).

Hanover [2]. Isaac Mann Wilder (1805-1879). John Butler Studley (1813-1858).

Abington [4]. Isaac Hersey (1807-1869). Zenas Jenkins 2d (1813-1894). Rev. Horace Dean Walker (1815-1885). Nathaniel Beal (1807-1872).

Hingham [3]. Rev. John Lewis Russell (1808-1873). John O. Lovett (1807-1885). Rev. Oliver Stearns (1807-1885).

Plympton [11]. [Congregational] Rev. Elijah Dexter (1786-1851). Eben Lobdell (1786-1861). Zacheus Sherman (1794-1859). Martin Hayward (1784-1869). Dr. Josiah S. Hammond (1810-1886). James Churchill Ellis (1806-1875). Deacon Cephas Bumpus (1785-1865). Thomas Ellis Loring (1806-1882). William Hudson Soule (1801-1871). Zenas Bryant (1787-1872). Erastus Leach (1803-1875).

Middleborough [14]. Horatio Gates Wood (1789-1861). Amasa Lamb (1806-1872). George Soule (1806-1874). Daniel Atwood (1806-1888). George Bailey (1806-1864). Peter Hoar Peirce (1788-1861). Edmund Haskins (1818-1889 bur. Lakeville). Nathan B. Dunbar (1808-1901). Nathaniel Eddy (1785-1869). Joseph T. Wood (1818-1890). Job Peirce Nelson (1806-1862). Henry D. Bassett (1817-1891). William H. Wood (1812-1883). Otis Soule (1799-1871).

North Bridgewater [27]. Jesse Perkins (1791-1857). Joseph O. Bennett (1810-1851). Nathaniel Cross (1827-1861). Elisha Howland Joslyn (1811-1892). Benjamin Gardner Stoddard (1804-1857). Ambrose Hayward (1810-1870). Charles Addison Hunt (1823-1884). Levi Wild Holbrook (1807-1888). Jacob Weed Crosby (1810-1891). Martin Beal (1805-1876). William Bartlett (1814-1895). Alpheus Holmes (1814-1892). Benjamin Southworth (1820-1883). Edward Ells Bennett (1804-1887). Ruel Richmond (1808-1882). Charles B. Crocker (1818-1882). Thomas Drew Stetson (1827-1916). Alexander Mark Leavitt (1817-1886). Lyman Clark (1807-1885). Robert Smith (1812-1877). Arnold Hunt (1798-1863). George Washington Easton (1821-1882). Stafford Drake (1802-1876). Charles Sexton Peirce (1823- 1867). Caleb Jefferson Holbrook (b. 1806). John Tilden (1798-1874). Benjamin P. Lucas (1811-1876).

South Bridgewater [6]. Philo Leach (1797-1853). Abram Washburn 2d (1795-1881). William Henry Adams (1803-1876). Benjamin Crocker (1807-1875). Lewis Holmes (1806-1893). Samuel Leonard (1797-1867).

Researching the list of citizens, all men, who signed this letter revealed a wide range of ages, classes, and occupations. Organized in part by the Old Colony Anti-Slavery Society (a largely white abolitionist organization), all of the men in this list were white, with the exception of the multiracial George Washington Easton of North Bridgewater (now Brockton), the grandson of black Revolutionary War soldier and entrepeneur James Easton.

Up Next: What Happened At The Plymouth Protest? “To compare Daniel Webster with Benedict Arnold is too feeble, to compare him with Judas Iscariot is better”: Plymouth Protests the Compromise of 1850: Part Two


“Nobly Braving the Wild, Maddened Sea in Obedience to a Sacred Sympathy for the Helpless Stranger”: 1867 Shipwreck by Manomet, Plymouth, Mass.

In Massachusetts, the nor’easter season typically ends in March. But occasionally a rare late nor’easter occurs in April, bringing heavy rain, hurricane-force winds, and rough seas. On Wednesday, April 17, 1867, an “unparalleled April gale” occurred along the Atlantic ocean off Massachusetts. Four Manomet men died while attempting to rescue the crew of the schooner Charles H. Moller, which became stuck “outside the breakers” south of Manomet Point near Stage Point and Manomet Bluffs, and had been partially wrecked by the storm.

Caught unawares by the storm, the Charles H. Moller came ashore mid-afternoon near Manomet Point, but due to the fact that the ship was “heavily ladened”, it “struck some distance from shore outside the breakers”. Unable to move, the storm continued to pummel the schooner, and its stern and upper works began to break up, which Manomet residents witnessed happening from the shore. Manomet residents feared for the safety of the schooner’s crew.

Just three months earlier, Manomet residents had rescued a crew from the shipwrecked barque Velma, under Capt. Nickerson, 340 tons burden, owned by Baker & Morrill of Boston, which had been driven ashore on the rocks off Manomet Point during a blizzard on Thursday, January 17, 1867. The snow storm was reported as “the most severe one known here for many years.” Velma’s crew “took refuge in the mizzen rigging, where they remained for ten hours, the sea making a breach over the hull.” Due to freezing and dangerous conditions, Velma’s steward and one of its sailors died after falling off Velma’s rigging into the sea and drowning. The Velma had been traveling from Smyrna in the Ottoman Empire (now Turkey) to Boston with mercantile goods valued at $60,000 in gold, including figs and wool. After ten hours had passed, several volunteers from Manomet risked their lives and rowed a lifeboat out to the Velma and successfully saved the remaining crew members. All of the crew were frostbitten, and at the time of rescue it was deemed likely that one sailor would lose both feet, and another sailor would lose both hands.

On April 17, 1867, eight Manomet men grabbed the lifeboat which had been used to rescue to Velma crew three months earlier. The rescue was led by 58 year old mariner and farmer James B. Lynch, and seven younger men, including his son, 31 year old mariner James B. Lynch Jr., 20 year old mariner Amasa Bartlett Jr., 24 year old farmer Cromwell F. Holmes, 24 year old farmer Otis Carver, 25 year old mariner John Burt Briggs, 27 year old mariner William Jordan, and 21 year old Nova Scotian laborer Donald McDonald Nickerson.

1857 Plymouth Map - Marked

At the time of the Charles H. Moller shipwreck in April 1867, James Lynch Sr. and James B. Lynch Jr. lived on the west side of present-day State Rd.,  Amasa Bartlett Jr. lived in his father Amasa Bartlett Sr.’s house on the west side of present-day State Rd., Cromwell F. Holmes lived in his father Cromwell W. Holmes’ house on the east side of present-day Manomet Point Road, Otis Carver lived in the home of his father C. Carver on the east side of present-day Beaver Dam Rd., John B. Briggs lived in his father S. Briggs’ house on the west side of present-day State Road, William Jordan lived in his father John Jordan’s house by Indian Brook off present-day State Road. The residence of Donald Nickerson, a transient laborer in Manomet, has not been identified. Allen Mellancourt was working on the Capt. Joseph Simes farm (marked on this map as C. Johnson). [1857 Map of Plymouth, Mass.]

Lynch and his men “succeeded in getting through the surf safely, and rowed down outside the vessel a mile or more below. Rounding to, they stood in abreast of the vessel and got a line. Being pulled directly to the vessel broadside to the sea by those on board, instead of forging ahead and backing down straight into the wind as they intended, a heavy sea overturned the boat, and all except Briggs were thrown into the water. Nickerson, Carver, and Jordan regained the boat, now righted with Briggs still in, and drifted safely ashore.”

However, James Lynch Sr., James B. Lynch Jr., Amasa Bartlett Jr., and Cromwell F. Holmes could not make it back to the lifeboat as the turbulent sea crashed over them. All four men drowned, “perish[ing] in sight of their parents and houses, and near the vessel whose helpless crew they had so nobly resolved to rescue at the hazard of their own lives.”

With half of the rescue crew dead, the other half helplessly drifting back to shore,  and nightfall quickly arriving, no additional rescue efforts were made on Wednesday, April 17, 1867. The Moller crew spent the stormy night in darkness, trying their best to keep water out of the schooner.

Early the following morning, 32 year old Allen Mellancourt/Mellancoat/Mellencote was anxious to attempt another rescue effort for the crew of the Charles H. Moller, who remained stuck offshore but alive. The weather was still stormy, with intense waves. Allen had been enslaved in Virginia three years previously, and had made his way north to Plymouth at the end of the Civil War. He was a newlywed, and his wife Jennie Cole was nine months pregnant. They had been married two months earlier in the Manomet Church by Rev. George F. Pool in February 1867. Jennie had been enslaved in Baltimore, Maryland, and several of her relatives had escaped slavery prior to the end of the Civil War through the Underground Railroad and made their way to the abolitionist town of Plymouth, Massachusetts. Allen worked as a farm laborer on the recently-constructed homestead farm of Capt. Joseph Simes, and had witnessed the previous day’s rescue efforts from the Simes’ farm.


Capt. Joseph Simes homestead (present-day 29 Manomet Point Road) in Manomet, ca. 1870. Courtesy of the Simes House Foundation.

Allen tried to gather another rescue party from neighboring properties, but no one agreed to go out with him. His neighbors had joined an effort on the beach to search for the four bodies from the previous day’s rescue attempt, who were all still missing. Many were also reluctant to make a second attempt while the storm still swelled the sea, especially considering the previous day’s great cost of life.

Unable to secure backup, and worried the men aboard the wrecked schooner might soon drown, Allen took a fishing dory and rowed out to the schooner alone, risking his life and the possibility of leaving his new wife a widow and his unborn child fatherless. Allen navigated the choppy water, and as he approached the Charles H. Moller, heavy waves hit his dory and he lost one of his oars while trying to prevent his boat from overturning. Witnesses from shore reported that Allen remained calm at this dangerous situation, and was not “daunt[ed] by his perilous position”. With his one remaining oar he steered his skiff back to shore. The Moller crew felt helpless as their second rescue attempt failed. By the time Allen landed back on shore, three of the four bodies had been recovered. Cromwell F. Holmes, Amasa Bartlett Jr., and James B. Lynch Jr. were carried up and prepared for burial the the Manomet Church, while the body of rescue crew leader James Lynch Sr. remained missing in the Plymouth waters. Those who had been searching the shoreline for their bodies reported that “pieces of the stern and bulwarks scattered on the beach indicate” that Moller was “an old and weak craft ill-calculated to stand the strain of such a position long,” and thus the crew was in imminent danger of Moller completely sinking.


Allen Mellancourt’s fishing dory was small enough for him to row alone, had room to fit several crew-members in the rescue attempt, and was likely an easily beach-launched model like the Swampscott Dory. The Swampscott dory shown here was created by Old Wharf Dory in Wellfleet, Mass.

Allen Mellancourt then led a third rescue attempt, this time with the lifeboat that had overturned the previous day. For this attempt Allen was able to recruit a small party of Manomet volunteers who had been impressed by his brave, but unsuccessful, solo rescue mission. Allen risked his life a second time as he led the lifeboat to the Charles H. Moller.  Allen and his men successfully reached the wrecked schooner, and together they “brought the crew safely to land” with no further casualties.

1867 Plymouth Drowning.jpg

The Plymouth town clerk recorded the deaths of Cromwell F. Holmes, James Lynch Sr., James B. Lynch Jr., and Amasa Bartlett Jr., who all “drowned by the upsetting of a boat” on 17 April 1867.

All four men from the first rescue attempt were buried in Manomet Cemetery with each of their gravestones noting their dramatic and heroic cause of death. It is unclear if James B. Lynch Sr.’s body was ever recovered. James Lynch Sr. left a widow, Sarah Annie (Woodbury) Lynch (1815-1901), and six children, their ages ranging from 29 years old to 8 years old: 29 year old Rebecca W. (Lynch) Ayers (1837-1915), 24 year old Charles Greenleaf Lynch (1842-1891), 21 year old Emeline L. Lynch (b. 1845), 19 year old Mary Elizabeth Lynch (1847-1900), Martha H. Lynch who had just celebrated her 18th birthday the previous week (b. 1849), and 8 year old Samuel Bartlett Lynch (1858-1899).

James B. Lynch Jr. left a 33 year old widow, Sylvia Ann (Bartlett) Lynch (1833-1904). They had married 31 December 1865, and had celebrated their first wedding anniversary only several months previously. Sylvia remarried Thomas B. Vinton in 1873.

James Lynch Sr. and his son James B. Lynch were memorialized on the same gravestone. Their epitaph stated that they “Drowned in Plymouth Bay April 17, 1867.”


James Lynch Sr. FindAGrave and James B. Lynch Jr. FindAGrave. Photograph courtesy of FindAGrave user Caryn.

The epitaph of Cromwell F. Holmes stated that he “Drowned while endeavoring to save the Crew of the Sch’r CHARLES MOLLER, April 17, 1867. Loved son and brother, may we all meet thee in Heaven.”


Cromwell F. Holmes FindAGrave. Photograph courtesy of FindAGrave user Sandra Lennox.

The epitaph of Amasa Bartlett Jr. stated that he “DROWNED while endeavoring to save the crew of the Sch’r CHARLES MOLLER, April 17, 1867. DEATH IS CERTAIN, THE HOUR IS UNSEEN.”


Amasa Bartlett Jr. FindAGrave. Photograph courtesy of FindAGrave member Sandra Lennox.


The tragedy made national news. “This most melancholy tragedy has stricken with deepest grief the families and a large circle of neighbors and friends of those brave martyrs to a sacred philanthropy. Possibly for one’s own flesh and blood a man will lay down his life; but he who nobly braves the wild maddened sea in obedience to a sacred sympathy for the helpless stranger, daring and losing all, bears a soul indeed heroic and worthy of highest honor. Lives so offered up are holiest teachings. Such exemplars challenge sacred emulation and elevate a generation in true nobility.”

Allen Mellancourt attended the funerals of the four Manomet men at Manomet Church, mourning their loss. He was thankful that his life had been spared and that he had been able to rescue the crew of the Charles H. Moller almost 24 hours after it had first wrecked off Plymouth. Life soon followed death when Jennie (Cole) Mellancourt gave birth to their firstborn child Daniel W. A. Mellancourt on 29 April 1867, two weeks after the shipwreck. Together Allen and Jennie had seven children until Allen died of consumption a decade later.

The Charles H. Moller disaster led the the construction in 1874 of a Coast Guard station at Manomet Point, which went on to save numerous lives until it was dismantled in 1955.


Coast Guard Station Manomet Point ca. 1909 (built in 1901, replacing the 1874 station). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.


1937 Manomet.jpg

1937 Map of Manomet, Plymouth, Mass. Courtesy of UNH.


Citations: “Marine Disasters,” The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Penn.) 21 Jan. 1867, p. 1; “The Storm in New England,” Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Ill.) 24 Jan. 1867, p. 2; “Sad Catastophe,” Old Colony Memorial Newspaper (Plymouth, Mass.) 19 April 1867, p. 1; Plymouth Rock (Plymouth, Mass.) April 1867: “The Plymouth Rock gives the following particulars of the loss of six young men while attempting to rescue the lives of others placed in peril by the gale on Wednesday last”; “Marine Disasters and Loss of Life at Plymouth, Mass.,” The New York Times (New York, N.Y.) 22 April 1867, p. 1; Plymouth Census and town records.